Who needs a flu shot? You need a flu shot!

Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue—it’s that time of the year again—flu season! The seasonal flu shot is administered yearly to protect against the flu. Shots are recommended for everyone ages six months and older. The flu can be a very serious illness, especially in young children, adults over 65 years old, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women.

Flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking between November and early March. The makeup of the flu virus changes from year to year, making it hard to predict. The flu is highly contagious. It is spread through droplets when people sneeze or cough, and on surfaces. Someone who has the flu is contagious one day before symptoms appear and up to a week after. It’s important to stay home when you have the flu to prevent others from getting sick.

It’s hard to predict exactly when the flu season will start, so health care officials recommend people get a flu shot in early fall, preferably by the end of October, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. A vaccine is needed every year, because the body’s immune response from the vaccination declines over time, and because flu viruses are constantly changing.

Antibodies, which protect our bodies from bacteria and viruses in the body, take about two weeks to develop in the body after the flu vaccination. It is a myth that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine. The viruses in the flu shot are killed, but because it takes two weeks for the body to build up immunity against the flu, some people may catch the flu shortly after being vaccinated if they have been exposed to the flu. That is one of the reasons people believe the flu shot gave them the flu.

People who have long-term medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or chronic heart disease are at a higher risk for serious complications from the flu. Yearly vaccination is the best way to help protect those with these and other chronic medical conditions. As people age, their immune systems also become weaker. That is why is so important for those 65 years and older to be vaccinated. According to the CDC, it is estimated that between 70 and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths in the United States have occurred among those 65 years and older. Hospitalizations account for between 50 and 70 percent of the estimated total for this age group.

Fortunately, there are vaccine options for people 65 years and older that are designed to promote a stronger immune response. They are higher-strength flu vaccines that help protect older adults against the flu. If you are 65 and older and do get the flu, you should be treated with antiviral drugs. Contact your health care provider and tell them about your symptoms.

Cedar Community requires team members to receive a flu shot every year to protect the health and safety of our residents. Getting vaccinated reduces the spread of flu among team members and residents. The shot is also offered to residents who could be greatly impacted by the flu. Cedar Community encourages everyone to vaccinate, especially those who may be visiting during flu season.

For more information, visit cdc.gov/flu/.