Nobody likes needles, but part of caring for your overall health and well-being is getting your annual flu shot. Whenever your body deals with a virus, it creates antibodies, which attack the virus and prevent future illness. But here’s the catch: antibodies only attack specific types of viruses. So antibodies for something like chicken pox won’t attack the flu.
Flu shots contain dead copies of the influenza virus, and the vaccine fools your body and forces it to create antibodies even though you haven’t actually gotten sick.
You can see why your annual flu shot is so critical to your health, and the timing of that shot is equally important. Here are a few reasons getting your flu shot early is a good idea:
Once your body has made these protective cells, they will stay around for a while, but your body needs ample time to build up those antibodies.
Exactly how long they stay depends on your health and the type of virus; most flu vaccines create antibodies that remain at a peak for at least six months. Some vaccines last longer, and many people will retain some antibodies for a year or more.
Many years, flu season peaks in January or February, and if you got your vaccine in July or August it will still be at full potency. But it doesn’t always work that way every year or everywhere.
Some years or in some areas, flu season can begin as early as October. If you haven’t gotten your flu shot by the time you’re exposed, you’ll probably get sick. By the same token, if you get your flu shot and are exposed only a week or two later, your antibodies may not have reached full potency.
Plus, it’s not just an outbreak of flu in your area that can get you. Getting together with family for the autumn holidays or traveling for school or work means you’re exposed to a variety of different people and places, intensifying your early flu risk.
Young children getting their first flu vaccine will need two shots about a month apart, so it’s even more important that they get their first flu shot early. Additionally, older people tend to be at greater risk for complications of the flu, so they need time to build up the antibodies to protect them from an early flu season.
College students are another group that benefit from early flu shots, as they’re heading off to tight quarters with other students that bring their flu exposure from all over the world. Plus, we all know that college students aren’t exactly famous for good eating and sleeping habits, putting their immune systems at risk.
It hasn’t happened in several years, but there have been shortages of the flu vaccine. Some years, the availability of certain vaccines has been scarce. And companies don’t manufacture special dosages, such as those for older patients, pregnant women, and children, as much as other types of vaccines. Not getting your vaccine early may mean not getting one at all.
It’s hard to get a flu shot too early. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention watch the flu cases in the Southern Hemisphere to decide which viruses will likely be active in the Northern Hemisphere. By the time drug manufacturers start churning out vaccines, you are well into the safe range for getting your flu shot.
To schedule your flu vaccination, call Dr. Martinez at People’s Care Health Systems in Riverside, California, or book an appointment online.