The Scoop on Flu Shots
Tyler Kitchen, R.Ph. - Wooster Location (within Buehler's Fresh Foods Market)
Q: I am very healthy and my kids are very healthy. Do we really need to get a flu shot?
A: The flu virus is highly contagious and can infect even very healthy people. Everyone older than 6 months should get a flu shot to help decrease the spread of the virus in the upcoming season. This helps protect not only yourself, but the people you come into contact with as well. The consequences of infection can result in several missed days of school or work, and some complications from the flu can even result in hospitalization and in rare cases, death. It is even more important for certain groups of people to get a flu shot such as children, pregnant women, anyone age 65 and older, and those with certain medical conditions since you are more susceptible to the virus. The flu shot is your number one line of defense against the virus and the best way of keeping your family healthy.
Q: What are the primary symptoms of the flu that the vaccine protects us from?
A: The most common symptoms of the flu are fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and fatigue. It is usually very sudden in onset and perceived as more severe than the common cold. If you should start to experience these symptoms, you should try to stay well hydrated, get plenty of rest, and avoid contact with others as much as possible until you are fever free for 24 hours. It should also be noted that the flu is primarily a respiratory illness, so symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are not as common and may suggest a stomach illness that is not protected by the flu shot. Most cases of the flu will resolve on their own, but if you experience severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, or persistently high fevers, you should seek medical care.
Q: Why do we need to get a flu shot every year?
A: Your immunity to the influenza virus declines over time, so the flu shot only protects you from the flu for one season. Flu seasons generally peak between December and March, with February being the most active month for the flu over the last few decades. Also, there are many different types of influenza virus, and they are constantly changing from year to year. Researchers study the flu patterns around the world and include 3 types of the virus in the vaccine which they predict to be the worst in the upcoming season. So it's important to get the flu shot every year to keep your immune system up to date against the current forms of flu virus that will most likely be affecting your community.
Q: My mother insists she got the flu from getting a flu shot, is this possible?
A: No, it's not possible to actually get the flu from the vaccine because the virus has been inactivated during production. Therefore, it is incapable of infecting other cells or replicating itself like it would during a true infection. However, there are three common reasons why people believe they get the flu from the shot. Some people may get side effects from the vaccine such as soreness and a mild fever, which can be mistaken for the flu. Secondly, they may come down with a flu that is not contained in the vaccine or get a flu-like virus that has similar symptoms. Finally, a small percentage of people who receive the vaccine may get infected by the flu virus during the 2 week time period before the vaccine takes full effect. This is why it is important to get your flu shot before the peak of the flu season arrives so that your body is prepared to fight off the infection.