Winter is fast approaching, and along with cold, stormy weather comes the influenza virus. To be more accurate, the flu is actually a group of many different viruses which all cause similar symptoms. Each winter international teams of researchers and doctors estimate which types and strains of viruses will spread the most widely throughout the world in any given year, and then vaccines are prepared to protect against the three  strains of flu considered most dangerous or likely to spread worldwide.

There are three ways to receive a flu shot which are delivered via  needle, usually in the arm: the normal shot which is approved for all people older than 6 months; a high-dose vaccine which is approved for those over 65 years old; and an intradermal shot for those between 18 and 64 years old.

Also available for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant is the nasal-spray flu vaccine. This is made with live, but weakened flu viruses, as opposed to the ‘shot’ which uses killed viruses. The nasal spray is also called LAIV, which stands for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine.”

The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine comes available. It takes about two weeks after administration of the shot to develop immunity to the flu, so the sooner the vaccine is given, the sooner people are protected. However, just because it may be late in the season is not a reason to refrain from getting the flu shot. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated from October all the way to May, reasoning that different viruses circulate in different places at different times, and it is always wise to get protection.

Josyann Abisaab, MD wishes all a healthy flu season this winter.