Influenza (flu) season peaks around the time snow falls in the Upper Midwest. Be ready.
Everyone ages 6 months or older should get an annual flu vaccine. Experts recommend getting vaccinated by the end of October.
Katie Larson, M.D., said your annual vaccine protects you against the flu strains that research indicates will be most common.
Dr. Larson also stressed that the vaccine is safe for pregnant people and their babies — and it’s important for their health. When a pregnant person gets their flu vaccine, they pass on protective antibodies to their babies to help keep them flu-free until they’re 6 months old and can receive a flu vaccination on their own.
What is flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The virus spreads through person-to-person contact. It also spreads through droplets infected people make when they cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can be inhaled directly or picked up on common surfaces.
Every year healthy individuals suffer complications from the flu that lead to hospitalizations or death. While the flu generally causes mild to severe illness, it is particularly dangerous in very young children, older adults and people with chronic health conditions.
There are a variety of signs and symptoms of the flu, including:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
Children, more commonly than adults, sometimes experience vomiting and diarrhea when infected.
When is flu season?
Flu season starts in the fall and peaks around December through February. Sanford Health vaccinates patients from September through the end of May.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that during the 2022-23 U.S. flu season there were:
- 26 million flu illnesses
- 12 million flu medical visits
- 290,000 flu hospitalizations
- 17,000 flu deaths
Who is at risk for flu?
Flu seasons vary in severity. But during most seasons, children and people 65 and older make up the majority of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths, the CDC said. Because of their increased risk, the CDC recommends higher-dose flu vaccines for people ages 65 and older.
Adults with chronic health conditions and people with other health and age factors can increase the risk of getting serious complications from flu.
Pregnant people are at a higher risk due to changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy.
What to do about the flu
Get your flu vaccine, wash your hands, cover coughs and avoid people who are sick. Sanford Health offers flu vaccines at local clinics, vaccination events and during regularly scheduled appointments. Patients can also request a flu shot appointment through My Sanford Chart.
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