In the United States, winter is the season most associated with the flu. That's why the CDC recommends that people get their annual vaccine in the fall to prepare for the upcoming season. But if you're going to be traveling internationally, "flu season" can mean a lot of different things.
That's why it's important, especially if you're in a group at high risk for influenza complications, to get a flu shot before traveling overseas. And even if you're not in that group, no one wants to spend an expensive vacation in bed with a fever – or bring the flu home on an airplane and get their friends and family sick.
Who Are The High Risk Groups?
Although the CDC suggests that everyone over the age of six get an annual flu shot, this is especially important for people who are at high risk of flu complications; among these groups, influenza can be very serious and sometimes even fatal.
The high risk groups include people with serious medical conditions, especially those that affect breathing, such as asthma or chronic lung disease. The flu can also seriously affect people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or on immune-suppressing medications. Adults over 65 and children under 5 are also at high risk, as are the obese, pregnant women, and American Indians.
When Should You Get Your Shot?
It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective, so make sure you schedule your shot at least that far in advance. If you'll be traveling in the summer, keep in mind that the flu vaccine in the US is produced annually and generally expires around the end of June, so you'll want to make sure you get vaccinated before this happens.
What If You Already Got A Flu Shot?
The length of the vaccine's protection varies depending on your immune system, so your best bet is to discuss this with your doctor. Generally, since the vaccine is meant to protect you through the entire U.S. flu season, you shouldn't need another one if you're traveling during the winter or spring.
What If You Think You Have The Flu?
It's a bad idea to travel if you may have the flu. While you probably don't want to rearrange or cancel your travel, spreading the flu across international borders is very serious. Even if you can fight off the flu easily, you never know who you might spread it to and how seriously it might affect them.
If you're interested in influenza information for specific countries and regions, the World Health Organization collects information from various member countries about influenza conditions and posts it, along with a summary, on their website. For more information, contact a specialist like Rocky Mountain Family Physicians.Share