During this time of year, the flu shot is all over the news, and this year has been no exception. The flu season typically occurs during the winter, but there can be flu outbreaks as early as October and as late as May, most often peaking between December and February. Getting the flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect against the flu.
Scientists say that this year’s flu vaccine will be more effective than last year’s, which is good news. All of the 2015-16 vaccines protect against two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. Some vaccines protect against an additional influenza B virus as well.
Interestingly, studies have been published that found the flu shot is less effective in people who have been taking statins for lengthy periods of time, as well as in people who get their flu shots every year (a finding that has scientists puzzled.) Despite this research, the flu vaccine is still the best way to your lower your chances of getting the flu and spreading it to others. And if you are pregnant, trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatment, the flu vaccine is recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in the absence of any medical contraindications.
The flu vaccine comes in an injectable form and as a nasal spray. Because the nasal spray is made with a live attenuated virus, it is NOT recommended for pregnant women, only for healthy people ages 2 to 49 that are NOT pregnant. Pregnant women or women who are trying to conceive should receive a flu vaccine made with inactivated virus — the flu shot.
You may have concerns about mercury in the flu vaccine, because thimerosol is used as an industry-standard preservative to keep bacteria from growing once the vaccine is opened, thus preventing contamination in multi-dose vials. Single-dose vials of the flu vaccine are thimerosol-free or contain a very small amount of the preservative. You can request a shot from a single-dose vial.
Getting the flu can cause serious problems when you are pregnant, and you are at higher risk for hospitalization and even death. In addition, severe illness in the mother can put the baby at higher risk for problems such as premature labor and delivery. While the single best way to prevent the flu is to get your flu shot, here are some additional tips to prevent the spread of flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you are coughing or sneezing.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home and work.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Manage your stress.
- Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of fluids.