Photo: Shutterstock / BaLL LunLa
Goodbye summer, hello 2018 flu vaccine guidelines.
Before the calendar even struck September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their annual guidelines for adults for surviving flu season—and the American Academy of Pediatrics went ahead and shared theirs this week. It might seem easy to blow them off; after all, you're healthy and the only people who really need to worry about the flu are the elderly and people who are already immune-compromised, right?
Unfortunately, no. Last year's flu season—a particularly vicious one—proved that, although it's rare, even young, healthy people can die from the flu virus. (Related: More People Were Hospitalized for the Flu Than Ever Recorded)
"Last year's flu season was brutal," says Darria Long Gillespie, M.D., an ER doctor and author of Mom Hacks. While early indications suggest this year won't be as bad, health officials can't be sure until it's actually happening, Gillespie explains, "and it's not ever a good idea to wait to see how bad the season will be before you get your vaccine."
The 2018–2019 Flu Recommendations
The CDC's guidelines have changed from last year. "A big difference is that the nasal spray is again recommended," says Dr. Gillespie. While technically you could get either a flu shot or FluMist, a nasal spray version of the vaccine, for the past two seasons, the CDC has only recommended the flu shot, citing concerns that the nasal spray wasn't an adequate flu fighter. This year's batch of FluMist however, has the CDC's stamp of approval for people ages 2 through 49. (Related: Exactly How Contagious Is the Flu?)
Before you rejoice at the idea of a needle-free flu season, there are a couple of caveats. "The nasal spray is a 'live attenuated' vaccine, meaning that the virus has been significantly weakened, but it is still alive," Dr. Gillespie says. That means it's not recommended for pregnant women. "Any live virus can have a potentially harmful effect on the fetus, so given that we have flu vaccine options where the virus is inactivated in the injectable version, the recommendation is to take the safest route, and just have the inactivated injectable form," she explains. FYI, the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends the shot over the mist for children 6 months and older, since it has provided more reliable protection against all strains of the virus.
No matter which flu vaccine you decide to get this year (talk to your doc if you're hesitant), it's important to do it ASAP, Dr. Gillespie says. Yes, really. "Since it takes around two weeks to build antibodies, the CDC recommends everyone get theirs before the end of October," she says. (The AAP also urges parents to get their children vaccinated ASAP, before Halloween hits.)
That said, pharmacies and even doctors' offices can run out of flu shots mid-season, so the earlier you get yours the better. Dr. Gillespie recommends putting it on your September to-do list.
Now that you're up on weathering this flu season, treat yourself to some more fun fall news—like these pumpkin beauty products perfect for PSL season.