Now that fall is here, it’s time to think about getting your yearly flu shot. This vaccine uses the body’s own immune defenses to protect against the influenza virus. The pneumococcal vaccine, which helps protect against pneumonia, is another high-priority shot for people with diabetes. Here’s why it’s so important for you to have these shots and know when the best time is to get them.
Influenza, also known as the flu, is an infection caused by a virus. The virus spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Flu symptoms may include a sudden high fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, runny nose, dry cough, and headache. But people with diabetes who catch the flu may become especially sick. The illness sometimes leads to pneumonia or a dangerously high level of blood glucose. In some cases, you may need a stay in the hospital.
The best way to protect yourself against the flu is by getting the flu vaccine. This vaccine doesn’t provide complete protection. It makes it less likely that you will catch the flu for about the next six months. You need a new flu shot every year. The best time to get it is in October or November so that you’ll be protected before flu season begins. It helps if the people you live with get flu shots, too.
Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial illness. It can cause serious—even deadly—infections of the lungs (pneumonia), blood (bacteremia), and lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Having diabetes increases the risk for death from these illnesses. Although the pneumococcal vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, it can go a long way toward protecting you from the worst infections.
You can get the pneumococcal vaccine at the same time as your flu shot or at any other time of the year. For most people, one shot is enough for a lifetime. Some people, including those with diabetes who are older than age 65, may need to get a second shot five to 10 years after the first one. Ask your health care provider whether this applies to you.
Be sure to talk with your provider about the flu and pneumonia shots before getting vaccinated. That way you'll avoid any health complications.
© 2014 Main Line Health