With much focus on the coronavirus this year, don't forget about another viral infection that threatens your health. Each year the Influenza virus affects 5-20% of Americans. This illness puts millions at risk of lost work and sick days, medical expenses, and possible health problems. A flu shot lowers that risk. You may be wondering, should you get a flu shot?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of six months should be vaccinated against the flu virus this year. With a few exceptions, Americans need their shots around October or in early fall.
Many people worry about just how the flu shot will affect them. If you're one of these, keep on reading to find out what you should know about getting vaccinated this year.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends a yearly flu shot for everyone over six months old. This is because the flu vaccine can safely and effectively prevent severe illness.
Flu vaccines contain dead or weakened forms of the Influenza virus. Your cells begin to build up a natural defense system when they receive these parts of the virus. Then, your body creates antibodies. These proteins help your body fight infection. Antibodies work to keep you healthy later on if you are exposed to the flu virus.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently looked at the best time to get your flu shot. In their study, researchers found that the U.S. flu season usually starts in December. After a flu shot, your body takes about two weeks to build up a response to the vaccine. Therefore, flu shots give the most protection when given in the fall, around October.
Vaccination is safe. Doctors have recommended flu vaccines for over 50 years. Over this time, a lot of research has evaluated the effectiveness and safety of immunizations. Certainly, the risk of serious reactions is low. Furthermore, manufacturers demonstrate the safety of their drugs before the FDA gives their approval.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) warns some individuals to talk to their doctor about the flu shot if they have certain contraindications. This means a specific situation, condition, or factor that could make a treatment unsafe or even harmful.
For instance, egg allergy prevents some from getting a flu shot. This is a contraindication because manufacturers use eggs to make the vaccine. Therefore, the flu shot may contain trace amounts of ovalbumin (egg protein).
In addition to contraindications, there are precautions for some individuals. For example, those with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome or who have an illness with fever may want to discuss vaccination with their doctor.
The flu shot may cause reactions. These are typically mild and go away within 48 – 72 hours. They may include:
In some cases, more severe reactions occur. These could be signs of a rare allergic reaction to the vaccine. If these signs or symptoms arise, you must seek medical attention right away:
The risk of not getting vaccinated is getting sick. You could miss work or school, incur medical costs, or suffer mild to moderate health complications.
Most healthy adults deal with a minor case of the flu virus by staying home and taking over the counter medication to ease symptoms. The infection generally lasts 7-14 days.
On the other hand, those considered "high-risk" could suffer much more serious cases. Some possible complications include hospitalization and even death. Here are some factors that put you in the high-risk category:
In conclusion, you and your healthcare provider will decide if a flu shot is right for you. You must talk with your physician about your past history and risk factors to decide whether or not to be vaccinated.
Talk to your physician if you still have questions about the influenza vaccine. They can help you with additional information.
If you still have questions or you would like to discuss your medical condition with a specialist, click below to schedule an appointment. MyVirtualPhysician treats conditions like the common cold, flu-like illness, and more. If you have any suggestions for additional topics you want to read about, please let us know! Don't forget to follow us on social media.
Rubin R. Is It Possible to Get a Flu Shot Too Early? JAMA. 2018;320(22):2299–2301. DOI:10.1001/jama.2018.18373