It’s that time of year, again. Fall is the beginning of flu season, which means that it’s time for you and your family to get your flu shot. Influenza vaccinations can help prevent flu outbreaks, reduce flu symptoms in individuals, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Learn more about influenza vaccinations and why it’s important to get a flu shot this season.
What is the flu?
The flu, or influenza, is a very contagious respiratory illness cause by the influenza virus. Influenza infections can affect different people in different ways. The flu can cause mild or severe illness, hospitalization, or even death.
There are as many as 50 million reported cases of influenza in the United State each year. Of those 50 million, over 200,000 are hospitalized, and over 23,0000 die because of the flu. Children, older adults, and those with weak or compromised immune systems are more susceptible to the flu. In recent flu seasons, a vast majority of flue-related deaths occurred in people over 65 years of age.
What is a flu shot?
A flu shot is an injectable flu vaccination, that helps your body stave off influenza viruses for the season. Flu shots can be trivalent or quadrivalent. Trivalent flu vaccines protect you from 3 flu viruses, while quadrivalent protect you from 4 flu viruses. Quadrivalent vaccines protect you from the same 3 viruses as trivalent vaccines, plus an additional B virus.
There are different flu vaccines every year. Influenza vaccinations are decided on based on the flu viruses that are most likely to infect people in the upcoming season. Don’t think that because you received a flu shot last year, you’re protected this year.
It takes up to 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to start working, but once it does, it’s 70-90% effective in preventing the flu. Even if you do get the flu, however, the vaccination can help limit symptoms and increase your body’s ability to overcome the virus.
Are flu shots safe?
Over the past 5 decades, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccinations. While side effects can occur, they typically go away on their own after a few days.
Flu shot side effects can include:
- Soreness or swelling from the shot
- Muscle aches
The flu vaccine does not give you the flu, but protects you from it. History has shown that the flu can be very dangerous, much more dangerous than vaccines have ever been.
Who should get the flu shot?
It’s possible to avoid the flu without getting a vaccination, but the best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot. Since older adults, children, and those with weak immune systems are more likely to get the flu, it’s especially important that these individuals receive vaccinations.
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccinations for people over 6 moths of age. Children younger than 6 months should not get the flu vaccination. Also, people with life-threatening allergies to flu vaccinations – or active ingredients in flu vaccinations – should not receive a flu shot. Those with egg allergies should talk to their doctor.
For the 2016-2017 season, the CDC recommends the flu shot -inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV)- or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), but not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Talk to your doctor about influenza vaccinations, or visit a MediServe Walk-In Clinic.