It's time to get ready for flu season. One thing you can do now is get vaccinated, but it's still too early to know what kind of flu season is in store, said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, chief of the infectious disease section for St. Luke's University Health Network.
"The only thing that one can say about influenza is that it's predictably unpredictable," Jahre said. "It generally peaks in our area in January or later, so now is as good a time as any to make sure that you get the vaccine."
Jahre recommended talking with your doctor about the different flu vaccine choices, including the flu shot, a nasal spray form of the vaccine and a shorter needle that goes into the skin, rather than muscle.
Jahre said there appears to be enough of the vaccine this year for anyone who would like it.
"The simple answer on who should get the flu vaccine is virtually everyone who's over the age of six months who doesn't have a specific contraindication to the vaccine," said Jahre. "You do it for yourself and you do it for others."
The vaccine will not give you the flu, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but Jahre said 15 to 20 percent of people will have a mild reaction.
"And I do stress the word mild," he said. "That can include some local pain and tenderness or redness at the injection site and occasionally for a day or possibly two feeling a mild illness where you have a low grade temperature and have some muscle aches."
Health experts said the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to kick in and offer protection. Jahre said it can be effective for up to six to eight months.
"Last year it was felt to be somewhere between 60 and 65 percent effective, but here's the important thing; even if it's not a good match, we know that by getting the influenza vaccine it will almost always reduce the severity of influenza that you might have had had you not gotten the vaccine," said Jahre.
Health experts said the flu shot is safe for pregnant women, but recommend against the nasal spray form of the vaccine for expectant mothers.
"If you get the vaccine. you can feel that you've done something very significant to help you," Jahre said.