According to the CDC, flu season officially commenced on October 1. This means physicians, pharmacies, and health clinics around the nation are reminding people to get their flu shot. Flu shots are typically free or very low-cost, and can be essential to keeping yourself as healthy as possible during the flu season.
Currently, the CDC recommends everyone 6-months old and older (shot version) or 2-years old to 49-years old (nasal spray version) receive a flu vaccine unless their physician or healthcare provider states otherwise.
Here are basic facts about the flu shot. And, as always, we recommend visiting the CDC’s pages dedicated to the flu shot to learn about the pros and cons in more detail.
Why do I need the flu shot or nasal spray vaccine?
While it’s true that you can get a flu shot – and then get some type of flu anyway – the CDC’s statistics show flu-related hospitalizations and fatalities have consistently declined since the flu shot has become a regular part of individual and family wellness plans.
Most flu shots are created to protect the population from the most common flus – influenza A (H1N1) virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus – although the specifics of the shots vary from year to year. Each year’s vaccine “brew” is based on data collected from the southern hemisphere’s flu records from their flu season, which is opposite of our flu season here in the northern hemisphere.
While anyone can get a severe flu, children and senior populations are the most likely to experience severe or life threatening symptoms, so we particularly recommend vaccinations for both children and the elderly.
Another benefit of getting the flu shot is that if you are exposed to a flu virus this year’s medical experts predicted, you are less likely to suffer as severely as your non-vaccinated peers. In addition to physical comfort, this also means missing fewer work or school days.
Are you pregnant?
Expectant mothers are another vulnerable population. Studies have shown that pregnancy-related changes in the immune system, lungs and heart make pregnant women more susceptible to catching the flu. Also, expectant mothers tend to have more severe flu symptoms, and experience them longer, than their non-pregnant counterparts.
NOTE: Hopefully your health provider covered this during your most recent prenatal appointment, but pregnant women should receive the flu shot via injection, rather than the nasal mist option.
Again, according to the CDC, pregnant women who receive the flu vaccine:
- Are 50% less likely to suffer re-related respiratory infections or respiratory distress
- 40% less likely to be hospitalized as the result of the flu
- Provide their babies with better flu protection for the first few months after they’re born
Side effects of the flu shot and nasal spray
Fortunately, most people experience zero to minimal side effects from the flu shot. The most likely side effects from the flu shot are:
- Redness, swelling or soreness at the vaccination site
- Low-grade fever
The most common side effects from adults who opt for the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine are:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Headache cough
Children may have more intense side effects from the nasal spray. In addition to the above, some children experience vomiting, dizziness, or wheezing.
Who should NOT get the flu shot?
While very rare, there have been cases of severe allergic reactions to the shots. For this reason, always review your existing and historic allergies with your physician before getting a flu vaccine. If you or a member of your family has a severe egg allergy, it’s best to get your shot in a medical setting in case it triggers a reaction.
Children under 6-months old should not get a shot, and children 2-years and under should not get the nasal spray vaccine.
Those who should speak to the doctor before getting a flu shot include:
- Those with severe allergies
- Anyone with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
- Those who aren’t feeling well
There are stricter regulations around who should NOT get the nasal spray form of the vaccine. Click Here to learn more.
The team at Overlake encourages all of our patients to get a flu shot after getting the all-clear from a healthcare provider. May you and your family have a flu-free winter and spring!