The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.
Here are some good reasons to get your flu vaccine and some answers to your questions about it.
Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.
Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults.
Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated can also protect a baby after birth from flu. (Mom passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.)
Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Other questions and misconceptions about the flu vaccine
Can a flu shot give you the flu? No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness.
Is it better to get the flu than the flu vaccine? No. Flu can be a serious disease, particularly among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking illness to obtain immune protection.
Do I really need a flu vaccine every year? Yes. The reason to get the vaccine is that a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the “optimal” or best protection against the flu.
Why do some people not feel well after getting the seasonal flu vaccine? Some people report having mild reactions to flu vaccination. The most common reaction to the flu shot in adults has been soreness, redness or swelling at the spot where the shot was given. This usually lasts less than two days. This initial soreness is most likely the result of the body’s early immune response reacting to a foreign substance entering the body. Other reactions following the flu shot are usually mild and can include a low grade fever and aches. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days. The most common reactions people have to flu vaccine are considerably less severe than the symptoms caused by actual flu illness.
What about serious reactions to flu vaccine? Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. While these reactions can be life-threatening, effective treatments are available.
What about people who get a seasonal flu vaccine and still get sick with flu symptoms? There are several reasons why someone might get a flu symptoms, even after they have been vaccinated against flu.
One reason is that some people can become ill from other respiratory viruses besides which are associated with the common cold, cause symptoms similar to flu, and also spread and cause illness during the flu season. The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, not other illnesses.
Another explanation is that it is possible to be exposed to influenza viruses, which cause the flu, shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect.
A third reason why some people may experience flu like symptoms despite getting vaccinated is that they may have been exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses the vaccine is designed to protect against. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the similarity or “match” between the viruses selected to make the vaccine and those spreading and.
The final explanation for experiencing flu symptoms after vaccination is that some persons getting the flu vaccine may still get sick.
Can vaccinating someone twice provide added immunity? In adults, studies have not shown a benefit from getting more than one dose of vaccine during the same influenza season, even among elderly persons with weakened immune systems. Only one dose of flu vaccine is recommended each season. Is the “stomach flu” really the flu? No. Many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. While vomiting, diarrhea, and being nauseous or “sick to your stomach” can sometimes be related to the flu — more commonly in children than adults — these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
For more information about the flu and flu vaccinations go to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm and talk to your doctor. Linda Bueno, RN, MEd