Every year, as the fall leaves turn and the weather becomes cold and crisp, people start preparing themselves for the flu season. A recent Wall Street Journal article outlines the different methods of avoiding infection, from the common sense approaches of vaccinations and hand washing to the less-commonly-known activities that seem to reduce symptoms—like meditation and singing.
Still, the most effective way to prevent the disease, along with good hand washing habits, is to receive an influenza vaccination. And with the Iowa Department of Public Health’s announcement Tuesday confirming the first three cases of the flu in Iowa, now is a good time to consider getting your own flu shot if you haven’t already.
The flu vaccine comes in two forms: the age-old flu shot and the more recently developed nasal spray. The CDC website reports that manufacturers have made between 151 million and 159 million doses of influenza vaccine available in the U.S. this year. The flu vaccine takes a couple of weeks to effectively guard against the flu (since your body needs time to develop antibodies), so it’s better to receive the vaccine during the fall, before the flu season is in full swing.
Most people are familiar with the idea of having to be poked with a needle in order to get a vaccination, but not everyone has to receive the vaccine through an injection. The nasal spray is a good option for the needle-averse, especially children. Starting in the 2014-2015 season, the CDC has recommended that healthy children ages 2 through 8 receive the nasal spray form of the vaccine, as recent studies have shown that the nasal spray may be more effective than the injection for children in this age group. And parents of kiddos in this age group will most likely appreciate being able to let their children know that they won’t have to get a shot in order to receive a vaccination.
One common misconception about both forms of the vaccine is that they can actually give people the flu. They both have mild side effects (including redness or swelling at the site of the injection, low-grade fever, and muscle aches). However, they do not cause the influenza virus because they are made with deactivated or weakened viruses or—in the case of recombinant vaccines—no virus at all.
Flu vaccines are commonly available at clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies. In Waukee, flu shots are available at Medicap Pharmacy. Check out healthmap.org for a vaccine locator where you can search for available vaccine providers by city or zip code.