A flu shot – is it worth it?

The typical flu season occurs from autumn through to early spring. The length and severity of an epidemic may vary. Flu symptoms usually include:

  • coughing
  • fever
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • runny nose

The symptoms that come with the flu can keep you bedridden for a week or more. Flu prevention is key if you don’t want to miss out work, family time or social events.

HOW DOES THE FLU SHOT WORK?
The flu virus changes and adapts every year, which is why it’s so widespread and difficult to avoid. New vaccines are created and released every year to keep up with these rapid changes. Before each new flu season, federal health experts predict which three strains of the flu are most likely to thrive. They use that information to manufacture the appropriate vaccines.
The flu shot works because it prompts your immune system to produce antibodies. In turn, these antibodies help the body fight off the types of flu virus that are present in the vaccine. After receiving the flu shot it takes about two weeks for these antibodies to fully develop.

WHO NEEDS A FLU SHOT?
Some people may be more prone to infection than others. That’s why we recommend that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated against the flu.
The shots are not 100-percent effective in preventing the flu but they are the most effective method to protect against this virus and its related complications.

RISK FACTORS
Certain groups are at an increased risk for getting the flu and developing potentially dangerous flu-related complications. It’s important that people in these high risk groups be vaccinated. These individuals include:

  • pregnant women
  • children between 6 months and 5 years of age
  • people 18 and under who receive aspirin therapy
  • people over 50
  • anyone with chronic medical conditions
  • people whose body mass index is 40 or higher
  • anyone living or working in a nursing home or chronic care facility
  • caregivers of any of the above individuals

Chronic medical conditions that could increase your risk of complications include:

  • asthma
  • heart or lung problems
  • HIV/AIDS
  • cancer
  • metabolic diseases
  • neurological conditions, such as epilepsy
  • blood conditions, such as sickle cell anaemia
  • obesity
  • kidney or liver disease

People under the age of 19 who are on aspirin therapy as well as people taking steroid medications on a regular basis should also be vaccinated.
Workers in public settings have more risk of exposure to the disease, so it’s very important that they receive a vaccination. People who are in regular contact with at-risk individuals, such as the elderly and children, should also be vaccinated. Those people include:

  • teachers
  • daycare employees
  • hospital workers
  • public workers
  • healthcare providers
  • employees of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities
  • home care providers
  • emergency response personnel
  • household members of people in those professions
  • People who live in close quarters with others, such as college students and members of the military, are also at a greater risk for exposure.

WHO SHOULD AVOID THE SHOT?
If you have the following conditions we recommend NOT having the flu shot:

  • Previous bad reaction: people who have had a bad reaction to the flu vaccine in the past should not get a flu shot.
  • Egg allergy: those with severe egg allergies should avoid vaccination. If you are mildly allergic, consult with your physician.
  • Mercury allergy: people who are allergic to mercury should not get the shot. Some flu vaccines contain trace amounts of mercury to prevent vaccine contamination.
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS): GBS is a rare side effect that can occur after receiving the flu vaccine. It includes temporary paralysis. If you are at high risk for complications and have had GBS, talk with your doctor to determine if you can receive it.
  • Fever: if you have a fever the day of the vaccination, you should wait until it’s gone before receiving the shot.

SIDE EFFECTS
Flu shots are safe for most people. Many people incorrectly assume that the flu vaccine can give them the flu – you can’t get the flu from the vaccine – but some people may experience flu-like symptoms within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine.
Possible side effects of the flu shot include:

  • low-grade fever
  • swollen, red, tender area around the injection site
  • chills or headache

These symptoms may occur as your body responds to the vaccine and builds antibodies that latter will help prevent illness. Symptoms are typically mild and go away within a day or two.
A seasonal flu shot is the single best way to protect against the flu. You can schedule an appointment to receive a flu shot at Ocean Medical Centre today.