Getting a flu shot to help protect yourself from the influenza virus that affects so many people each year is easy – most drug stores offer free flu shot clinics most weekdays throughout the fall season. But do you know if you actually should get a flu shot? Or do you just think you need one to help you ward off the virus for the winter?
Before you go running off to your local pharmacy to get the prick, let’s clear this up a bit and explain how you know if you’re among the group that should get a flu shot every year, if it won’t make a difference for you or if you’d be better off not getting one. Here is all of the information you need before you go to receive your flu shot this season.
Who is Considered “High Risk?”
This is a question that not many people actually know the answer to, but that we all hear time and time again throughout flu season: “Who is considered ‘high risk’ for influenza?”
Simply put, anyone who is at risk of further complications when infected with the influenza virus should get a flu shot each year. This means that people with certain medical conditions asthma, lung disease and even Diabetes should refrain from having the shot due to the potential risk of pneumonia and other serious complications.
Pregnant women are also considered high risk for the same reason – there is a higher likelihood that if they were to be infected with the virus, their sickness could result in deadly complications either to themselves or their unborn children.
Elderly people are also in the high risk crowd, and this applies to anyone 65 years or older. It’s important to also remember that people who are frequently around any of these high risks groups should also be vaccinated, as even a healthy 30-year-old adult could easily become infected with the virus by simple contamination from contact with someone who has the virus.
Who Should Avoid the Shot?
While there is a very small group of people that should avoid having the flu shot at all costs, that small group does still exist, and it’s important to know if you might fall into that group so that you can steer clear of the vaccination this flu season.
Among this small group is the small population that suffers from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which is a paralytic illness that is likely a result of a previous influenza vaccination. Anyone suffering from GBS should not get another flu shot unless advised by a doctor.
You are also not advised to have a flu shot if you have any severe allergy to eggs or know that you have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine itself in the past. You should avoid having the flu shot at any time while you have a fever, but if you suffer from other minor illnesses, consult your doctor, but you should be in the clear when it comes to getting a flu shot.
How Will I Feel After the Shot?
Many people have begun to avoid having the flu shot prior to flu season because they are convinced that it will actually give them the flu so their bodies will build up the immunity to it necessary to fight off the illness throughout the remainder of the year. While in theory this might sound legitimate, the flu shot does not actually give you the flu.
Yes, the influenza vaccination is created from the same viruses that actually make you sick, but in the vaccine, the viruses are deactivated, or killed. That means that you won’t necessarily get the flu from the flu shot, but you may have some similar symptoms following your shot. These may include some redness or swelling around the area where the shot was given (which is completely normal), a slight fever and even a few aches and pains in the body that feel similar to the symptoms of the flu.
While these are not guaranteed side effects, there is still the chance that getting the flu shot will make you feel slightly ill, so you may choose to avoid getting it all together.
What Happens if I’ve Been Vaccinated and Still Get Flu-Like Symptoms?
This happens more frequently than most people think – but just because you’ve received your flu shot doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re magically completely immune to the virus. There is still the chance that you may have actually been exposed to the virus shortly before receiving your vaccination. It takes the body about 2 weeks after the flu vaccination to build up the proper protective systems, so there is always a chance that you could be exposed to the virus prior to or during that time.
On top of this, flu vaccines are seasonal. Scientists test and study various strands of the virus each year to determine which one will have the highest likelihood of protection from influenza for that specific year, and they create a vaccine surrounding these principles. It is still possible, then, for someone to become ill with a strand of influenza that was not included in the seasonal vaccine, which would, of course, result in the person having the flu.
Before you receive your flu shot this year, make sure you understand whether or not you actually need it, if you will really benefit from it and if you really want it. The information is out there, so be informed before heading off to the pharmacy in an attempt to protect yourself from contracting influenza.
Author Buyline: Sasha Born is a writer who has a passion for health and wellness. She is currently researching the influenza virus and future vaccines to prevent it, as well as looking into the UAZ RN to MSN online program to further her education on the subject matter.
- ‘U Of M’ Report: Flu Shots Not As Effective As Previously Reported (minnesota.cbslocal.com)
- Flu cases already confirmed in South Carolina (chronicle.augusta.com)
- Should You Get a Flu Shot This Year? (pharmamanagedcare.com)
- The truth about getting the flu shot (mnn.com)