5 Things You Need to Know About This Year’s Flu

The weather may be cooling down but, as per usual, flu season is starting to heat up!

Flu season isn’t as predictable as the cycle of the moon, but it does ebb and flow this time of year fairly reliably. Flu season (the season marked by a prevalence of outbreaks of influenza) occurs during the colder months of each respective hemisphere. For North Americans, that’s the winter months of October through to March.

So, why does this keep happening year after year? Well, in short, the virus changes year over year. With every new flu-season comes a new subtype of the influenza virus. Which leaves doctors and patients having to contend with a brand-new flu vaccination each and every season. Some of them work really well, while others not so much.

Today, we’ll take a look at this year’s flu, the latest flu-related news and more. Protect yourself from the flu with a booster-shot of good old-fashioned information. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt a bit. Let’s go!

1. How Bad Will This Flu Season Be?

Don’t uncross those fingers yet, but it looks like this year’s flu season may be on the milder side. That’s based on information coming from Southern Hemisphere countries like Australia, who have enjoyed a fairly tame 2018 season. Part of that is due to the effectiveness of last year’s vaccine when compared to this year’s updated vaccine.

It’s good news for those of us hoping to save our dwindling sick days for the warmer weather (cough, cough), but you certainly shouldn’t take it as an excuse to skip out on getting the vaccine altogether. For starters, these things are fairly difficult to predict. Influenza strains tend to mutate, rendering it relatively unpredictable.

Sometimes, just as unpredictable as the severity of the season is the effectiveness of the vaccine itself. So… how effective is this year’s vaccine?

2. 2018 Vaccine Effectiveness

Though it’s all but impossible to predict the effectiveness of the flu vaccine this early, the experts are most certainly optimistic. This year’s vaccine has been updated to protect against three vaccines in particular: A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1), A/Singapore/INFIMH-16-0019/2016 (H3N2), and B/Colorado/06/2017.

You can be forgiven if those numbers, bracket, and back-slashes mean absolutely nothing to you. The important thing is that, the components of last year’s vaccine that didn’t quite work have been updated. These updates have the doctors feeling good. As such, you should feel pretty confident about this year’s flu shot too!

3. Who Should Get the Vaccine?

If you ask a doctor, odds are they’d answer the questions with a resounding, “everybody.” And though that might be true, there are specific high-risk groups that doctors encourage more diligently than others.

For clarity purposes, we’ll list the high-risk groups in the order of their importance. To start, influenza vaccinations are always recommended for children aged six months through 59 months.

Particularly vulnerable are children aged six months through 59 months, followed by pregnant women, and people 50 or over. You’ll also want to seek out your closest available clinic and get vaccinated if you are obese, or if you suffer from a serious illness such as chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular disease, or metabolic disorders.

Even patients who are otherwise perfectly healthy have been killed by influenza in the past. So, just because you don’t belong to one of the previously mentions high-risk demographics, and flu-shots are in relatively high supply, we must stress the importance of getting vaccinated.

4. When to Get Vaccinated

It’s a wise decision to get vaccinated. The vaccine has the possibility to prevent serious illness and, you won’t need to take time off work, which can reduce financial stress.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you make plans to get your flu vaccine in early Fall. That’s because the flu vaccine can take as long as two full weeks for the flu-fighting antibodies to develop in your body.

It’s also important to note that some children require two doses of the vaccine to ensure their protection. If your child qualifies for a double dose, it’s important that they start the process as soon as possible.

5. How to Protect Yourself

Getting vaccinated against the flu is the best way to protect you and your loved ones year after year. For many, getting vaccinated is as simple as scheduling an appointment with their family doctor. But thankfully, you don’t need a family doctor to get vaccinated. Plenty of pop-up vaccination shops and walk-in clinics offer the service as well. Just follow this link, enter your address and be connected with local vaccination sites instantly.

The CDC also has this handy list of good health habits to help keep you safe. They recommend staying home when you are sick, washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing, as well as avoiding close contact with those who are sick. Though these tips may seem self-evident, they are important to keep in mind. Especially during flu season.

Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Nov 26, 2018