“Should I get the flu shot?”: Flu FAQ

“Should I get the flu shot?”: Flu FAQ


Absolutely, it’s a good idea to get the flu shot every year. That’s the best protection that we have against the flu because even if we have a change in the influenza virus, either through shift or drift, those previous vaccinations will help to protect against future viruses, even if they’re not an exact match. The flu is not a bad cold. The flu is actually a fairly dangerous illness. Tens of thousands of people die from influenza on an annual basis. We can’t say that about the cold. Rarely, is there fever associated with a cold. Flu, on the other hand, a primary symptom is fever. And then there are also body aches. There’s a cough, which may develop into pneumonia. But those are the primary symptoms that we see with the flu The other difference between a cold and the flu is that most people can continue to work with a cold The flu knocks you flat on your back. Generally you are out from work for 2-3 days. The best time of year to get a flu vaccine is probably as soon as it’s available … because then you’re most protected for whenever the flu season starts. There are some risks associated with the influenza vaccination; however, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. These are inactivated or killed, the virus vaccines, and so the shots do not transmit the flu. They do, on occasion, make you feel like you’ve gotten the flu–there are some aches. There may even be a low-grade fever, but it’s not the full-blown flu. People who do have egg allergies should tell their provider they have an egg allergy. And then their provider should give them one of the two vaccines that is safe for them to receive. Not only can pregnant women get the flu shot, but they should get the flu shot. It is safe in pregnancy. It’s a huge risk for pregnant women if they get the flu … because they are at an increased risk of dying from it, and it is perfectly safe for the fetus. The newborn baby will be protected from the flu because the mother’s immune system generates antibodies. Those antibodies are actually transmitted over to the fetus, and they last about the first six months of the baby’s life. There are very few people who cannot get the flu vaccination. Anyone who has had a serious reaction to a previous flu immunization should not get a flu shot. There are two primary vaccines that are used for the general population. One that covers three, primary circulating viral strains … and then there’s one that actually adds in a fourth. There are two vaccines available for folks who are 65 and older. That’s a high-dose vaccine, so it’s essentially double the dose of the regular vaccine. And then there’s one that’s called FLUAD, and so it has an adjuvant in it. And this adjuvant actually is a general stimulator of the immune system so that it will generate a better response to the flu viruses that are there. And then there is the one that is called the flu mist. That is what we call a live attenuated virus that is for use primarily in kids who do not want to get a shot. But if there are adults who are averse to getting shots, they can use the flu mist as well. It is important to note that people who have weakened immune systems should not receive the flu mist. Antivirals for influenza are most effective when they’re started within the first 24 hours of symptoms. And so if you have a fever and body aches associated with the cough, and certainly fever or body aches, that would be a clue that you should go to your doctor to seek antiviral therapy. So one of the best things to do during flu season in order to avoid getting the flu is to wash your hands or clean your hands frequently. Especially if you’re going to be out in a public place, frequent hand cleaning and hand washing is very important in those settings. So, masks may be effective in preventing the flu. It’s not entirely clear that they are. I’m aware of two research studies. One was done in Australia during flu season, and that showed that masks actually did not prevent influenza. There was a second study that was done in China, and that showed that the masks were effective in preventing influenza. I think if masks are effective, it’s because people use them properly; then, the mask provides a barrier from people touching their mouth and their nose.

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