Influenza Vaccine

Hello! It is hard to believe that back-to-school is upon us which means flu season will be starting soon. Today, I would like to give some information about the flu vaccine and why it is important to receive.

What is the flu?

Flu, or influenza, is a contagious viral respiratory illness. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, nasal congestion, and sometimes vomiting/diarrhea (more common in children than adults). Flu spreads by droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and can sometimes lead to death. Flu can be difficult to differentiate from other viral respiratory illnesses based on symptoms alone but tests are available to diagnose it. Also, there are antiviral drugs to treat flu but these must be taken within a particular time frame. The best way to prevent flu is to receive a flu vaccine every year.

About flu vaccine

You need to have a flu vaccine every year because there are many flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The flu vaccine prevents three to four strains that research suggests will be most common. Most commonly, people receive an intramuscular injection of inactivated (dead) influenza vaccine. Another option is a live-attenuated influenza nasal spray vaccination (although this was not used in 2016-2017 because questionable effectiveness). Also, there is a vaccine available for those who are allergic to eggs. For best protection, you should be vaccinated before flu season is in full swing (usually by October).

Who should be vaccinated?

Everyone over the age of six months should be vaccinated.

Vaccination is particularly important for those who are at greater risk of complications from the flu including children, elderly adults, those with chronic health problems, pregnant women, and healthcare personnel.

Who should not be vaccinated?

  • Children under six months of age
  • Any person who has had severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine
  • People who are moderately to severely ill with or without fever (wait until you recover)
  • Those with a history of  Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of a flu vaccine

The flu vaccine made me sick!

I hear this all the time and it deters people from getting their annual flu vaccine.

There is no live flu virus in flu shots (it is inactivated). That means it cannot cause the flu. If you became sick after receiving a flu vaccine, the more likely scenario is that you coincidentally developed some kind of upper respiratory illness at the same time.

Even the live intranasal flu vaccine does not cause flu because it is a weakened virus. However, this vaccine is only recommended for healthy, non-pregnant children/adults ages 2-49.

Flu statistics

According to CDC, every year the flu accounts for 31.4 million outpatient visits, about 200,000 hospitalizations, $87 billion in total economic burden, and between 3,000-49,000 deaths.

Anyone can get the flu, no matter how strong you believe your immune system to be (I hear that a lot too). Adults between the ages of 18-64 accounted for 60% of hospitalizations for flu during the 2013-2014 season. It is not just the very young and very old who become sick.

The flu can be very serious and cause major complications. Please do your part to protect yourself and those around you by getting a flu vaccine this year!

Comment below if you have any questions!

Disclaimer: This post is not to be substituted for medical advice. If you believe you are having a problem, contact your provider who knows your health history.