It’s officially fall, which means flu season is just around the corner. You can prepare and protect your family in advance by scheduling a flu shot now.

Flu shots are the most effective way to prevent influenza and its potential complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older be vaccinated against influenza. Since the viruses associated with influenza shift from year to year, the CDC recommends that you get a flu shot each year.

Influenza is a respiratory illness that has the potential to cause serious complications, especially in high-risk groups including young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with chronic medical conditions including asthma, cancer, chronic lung disease, diabetes, chronic liver disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, chronic kidney disease and obesity.

Individuals without chronic medical conditions can also get influenza. In many cases the illness will last for up to a week, forcing these people to miss work in addition to family activities and commitments. Influenza can be quite humbling for people who pride themselves on “never getting sick.”

Healthy individuals decrease their chances of influenza when they get a flu shot. They also decrease the chances that they will pass influenza to their family members who may be in one of the high-risk categories. It is not unusual to see several members of a family with influenza, either at the same time or one after another.

According to multiple studies, individuals who receive flu shots have a lower overall incidence of other illnesses in the year following a flu shot. They also suffer from a lower incidence of serious medical complications, such as heart attacks.

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a new seasonal influenza vaccine for adults 65 years and older. The vaccine contains an adjuvant, which is an ingredient added to the influenza vaccine to create a stronger immune response to the vaccination. The flu vaccine, FLUAD, is available during the 2017-18 season.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that the “nasal spray” flu vaccine, or live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), should not be used during the 2017-18 flu season.

ACIP also continues to recommend annual flu vaccination, with either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), for everyone six months and older.

Since all flu vaccines contain inactivated influenza, people cannot get influenza from the shot. However, some people may experience a mild, influenza-like illness. Common side effects from the vaccine may include soreness; redness or swelling where the shot was given; hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough; fever; aches; headache; itching and fatigue. These side effects, if present, usually occur soon after getting the vaccine and last one to two days.

The last three years have been relatively mild as it relates to influenza outbreak in the Unites States but the CDC is concerned that the 2017-18 season could potentially be worse as there has been an upsurge of a specific serotype in Australia and New Zealand. Reports have also indicated an uptick in activity already in the certain portions of the United States, so the time for a shot is here, now.

People can get a flu shot at their doctor’s office or pharmacy, through East Central District Health Department or Columbus Community Hospital’s Occupational Health Services, in addition to several other locations.

Many local employers have dates set aside for their employees to receive flu shots and most insurance plans now cover the vaccine.

Schedule an appointment for a flu shot now to avoid influenza later.

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