The Importance of the Flu Shot
typical flu season occurs from fall to early spring. The length and severity of
an epidemic may vary. and some lucky individuals may get through flu-free. We
can always expect to be surrounded by sneezing and coughing for a few months
out of every year.
to the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the flu affects
between 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population each year.
fever, headache, sore throat, and runny nose that come with the flu can be enough
to keep you bedridden for a week or more. A cold can really put a damper on
your work and social life. If you’re worried about missing out on holiday celebrations,
family events, social activities, or work, flu prevention is key. Getting an
annual flu shot can spare you the misery of illness and ensure that you don’t
miss out on activities and events this season.
How Does the Flu Shot Work?
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.
shot works by helping your immune system to produce antibodies. These help the
body to fight off the types of flu virus that are present in the vaccine. It
takes about two weeks after receiving the flu shot for these antibodies to
Who Needs a Flu Shot?
some may be more prone to infection than others, the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC) recommend that everyone six months of age or older be
vaccinated against the flu.
are not 100 percent effective in preventing the flu. However, they are still the
most effective method to protect against this virus and its related
groups are at an increased risk for catching the flu and developing potentially
dangerous flu-related complications. It’s important that people in these high
risk groups be vaccinated. According to the CDC, these
- 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
- American Indians or Alaska Natives
- anyone living or working in a nursing home or
chronic care facility
- caregivers of any of the above individuals
medical conditions that could increase your risk of complications include:
- heart or lung problems
- metabolic diseases
- neurological conditions,
such as epilepsy
- blood conditions, such as sickle
- kidney or liver disease
to the CDC, people under
19 who are on aspirin therapy as well as people taking steroid medications on a
regular basis should also be vaccinated.
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:
- day care 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
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 Not Get a Flu Shot?
people should not get a flu shot. These include people who:
- have had a bad reaction to the disease in the past
- are severely allergic to eggs. If you are mildly
allergic, talk to your doctor, as you may still qualify for the vaccine.
- are allergic to mercury. Some flu vaccines contain
trace amounts of mercury to prevent vaccine contamination.
- had Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare side
effect of temporary paralysis that occurs after receiving the flu vaccine. Some
individuals at high risk for complications and who have had GBS may still be
eligible for the vaccine. These individuals should talk with their doctors
before receiving another vaccination.
- have a fever the day of the vaccination. These
individuals should wait until the fever is gone before receiving a vaccination.
Are There Any Side Effects to the Flu Vaccine?
people incorrectly assume that the flu vaccine could give them the flu, but flu
shots are safe for most people. Although you cannot get the flu from the shot, some
people may experience flu-like symptoms within 24 hours of receiving the
side effects of the flu shot include:
- low-grade fever
- swollen, red, tender area
around the injection site
- chills or headache
are typically mild and go away within a day or two.
What Vaccines Are Available?
High-Dose Flu Shot
The U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a high-dose flu vaccine
(Fluzone High-Dose) for people 65 and over. Since the immune system response
weakens with age, the regular flu vaccine is not often as effective in these
individuals. They are at the highest risk for flu-related complications and
vaccine contains four times the amount of antigens as there are in a
normal-dose flu vaccine. Antigens are those parts of the flu vaccine that
stimulate the immune system’s production of antibodies, which combat the flu
to the CDC, studies
have not yet proven the effectiveness of this vaccine. There is a major study
currently being conducted that is comparing the results of the commonly used
flu shot vaccine with Fluzone High-Dose. The study should be finished by 2014
Intradermal Flu Shot
The FDA recently approved another type of vaccine, Fluzone
Intradermal, for people between 18 and 64. The typical flu shot is injected
into the muscles of the arm. This version uses smaller needles to inject
vaccine just under the skin.
Intradermal vaccine may be an attractive choice for those
afraid of needles because the needles are 90 percent smaller than those used
with the typical flu shot.
While this method works just as well as the typical flu shot,
side effects of swelling, redness, roughness, or itchiness at the site of
injection are more common. According to the CDC,
some people may also experience headache, muscle aches, or fatigue. These side
effects should disappear within three to seven days.
Nasal Spray Vaccine
Individuals with no chronic medical conditions, who are not
pregnant, and who are between 2 and 49 years of age are also eligible for the
nasal spray form of the flu vaccine (LAIV FluMist). According to the CDC, the spray is
nearly equivalent to the flu shot in its effectiveness.
However, certain individuals should not receive the flu
vaccine in nasal spray form. According to the CDC, these
- people 50 years or older
- children under 2 years old
- children between 2 and 5
who have had at least one wheezing episode in the past year
- pregnant women
- people who have had a
serious reaction to flu vaccine in the past
- people with asthma
- children and adolescents
on aspirin therapy
- people severely allergic
to eggs. If you are mildly allergic, talk to your doctor, as you may still
qualify for the vaccine.
- people with muscle or
nerve disorders that make swallowing or breathing difficult
- people with weakened
- people with a history of GBS
seasonal flu shot is still the single best way to protect against the flu. You
can schedule an appointment to receive a flu shot at your doctor’s office or at
a local clinic. Flu shots are now widely available at pharmacies and grocery
stores, with no appointment necessary.