Flu Shots: Getting to the Point
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a serious, acute respiratory illness that is caused by a virus that can lead to hospitalization and, in some cases, even death. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of people get the flu each year, hundreds of thousands of people each year are hospitalized due to the flu and thousands more die from flu-related causes. The flu is something to take very seriously.
Symptoms of the flu may include fever, chills, cough, runny eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, extreme weakness and fatigue. In children, earaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are common. And in the elderly, a fever may be absent from symptoms. Your best defense against the flu is the flu vaccine.
Vaccination against the flu produces antibodies in the body, approximately two weeks after receiving the shot, and can last for up to one year. These antibodies are your best protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. This vaccination changes with each flu season and offers the best protection against the flu virus that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Contrary to popular myth, the vaccination does not cause the flu.
Since 2010, when the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for universal flu vaccination in the U.S., the CDC has recommended that everyone over the age of 6-months receive the flu shot with every flu season. Vaccination is very important for those at high risk of developing flu-related complications, including children under the age of 5, women who are pregnant (or 2 weeks post-partum), residents of nursing homes, adults over the age of 65, those who suffer from medical conditions (i.e. asthma, organ conditions and blood disorders) and some American Indian communities who have shown to be a higher risk category. If you are concerned that you may be in the high-risk category, speak to your family doctor before flu season begins.
Anyone who has a serious allergy to eggs or egg products should not get the flu vaccine. Also, children under the age of 6-months have not yet been approved for the flu shot. If you have had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past, speak to your family doctor before obtaining another shot. If you have a temporary illness or fever, it is best to wait until you are in good health before obtaining the shot.
Prime time for a flu vaccine is before the end of October, which is typically when the shot becomes available and flu clinics begin to appear. Vaccination clinics are usually available throughout the flu season, even into January of the following year, but receiving the shot as early as possible is your best protection against contracting the virus. Remember that by vaccinating yourself, you are also helping to protect your family against the flu.
It is important to remember to re-vaccinate each year because the body’s immune response from vaccination will decline over time, therefore re-vaccination is required for maximum protection. Also, the flu viruses are constantly changing and the vaccination is not identical with each new flu season.
After you receive your immunization, whether from your family doctor, at a pharmacy or workplace flu clinic, you should ask for a written record of your immunization from the doctor or nurse who administered your shot. Keep that record in a safe place, perhaps where you keep your passport, so that you can update the same record each year.
For more detailed information on the types of vaccines available for the 2017 flu season, please visit the CDC website’s dedicated page here.