October is almost over, which means the holidays are rapidly approaching. I always look forward to the holidays because it gives me more time to spend with family and friends.

Unfortunately, the holidays also mean that flu season is at our doorstep, threatening to disrupt holiday reunions. That’s why I’m encouraging you to help protect everyone you’ll see over the holidays by making sure you and your family get your flu vaccine.

Knowing the risks

Flu can cause serious illness in people of all ages, but some people are more vulnerable to serious illness from flu. Pregnant women, children younger than 5 years, people 65 and older and people with certain chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and asthma are more likely to become seriously ill from the flu.

“...people 65 years and older typically bear the greatest burden of severe flu illness because people’s immune systems become weaker with age.”

Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year. A flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your chances of getting and spreading the flu. While you’re planning to get your flu shot, there are a few important changes to keep in mind this flu season.

New developments

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion recommends only injectable flu vaccines (or “flu shots”) this season and is not recommending nasal spray flu vaccines because of concerns about how well it works. This is an unfortunate setback because it offered an alternative to painful shots. As a parent of kids who don’t like getting shots, I was disappointed to hear that the nasal spray vaccine wasn’t working well. But I also know I would much rather my children get vaccinated properly than get the flu.

This past flu season, we saw a drop in the number of older adults getting their flu vaccine. As a physician, this drop is particularly concerning to me. While flu seasons can vary in severity, people 65 years and older typically bear the greatest burden of severe flu illness because people’s immune systems become weaker with age.

Fortunately, there are vaccines specifically for older adults to give them added protection against seasonal flu. This flu season, manufacturers are introducing the first adjuvanted flu vaccine marketed in the United States. An adjuvant is an ingredient added to a vaccine that helps create a stronger immune response to vaccination. There is also a high-dose vaccine option, which contains four-times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses) as standard flu shots.

As we prepare for increased flu activity, the CDC is encouraging people of all ages to join the fight against flu by getting their flu shot.

Feeling under the weather? Nose going for a run? While you consider whether or not you should get a vaccine (you should), take Mediaplanet's quiz to brush up on your flu facts and keep the achoos out of the air.