It is officially the beginning of flu season, so right now is the best time to get an influenza vaccination.  The flu is a serious illness and has the potential to be life threatening.

“It’s important to understand that the flu is not just a bad cold, it’s a serious and often life threatening illness,” said Norman H. Edelman, M.D., Senior Medical Advisor of the American Lung Association. “Many of us know people whose lives have been tragically affected by the illness. Vaccination is safe and effective, and is the best way to help prevent influenza. There are now multiple influenza vaccination options available including an inhaled form for those who do not like needles. People should talk with their health care provider to find the option that’s right for them and each member of their family.”

Influenza is a serious, contagious respiratory illness. Each year, approximately 5-20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu. Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. Flu season in the U.S. can begin as early as October, usually peaks around January and February, and as late as May.

Vaccination against influenza is especially important for pregnant women and people 50 years of age and older, as they are at a higher risk of developing influenza-related complications.  The CDC recommends children 6 months through 8 years of age that are receiving an influenza vaccine for the first time should receive two doses one month apart  from each other for optimal protection against the flu.  Because influenza is a serious and highly contagious disease, do not wait until later in the season to have your children immunized but have it done at the start of influenza season.