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What You Should Know About the Flu Shot
Posted: Sep 12th, 2016 at 12:00AM
What is the flu shot?
The flu shot, or influenza vaccine, is available each year before and during the yearly flu season which is typically between October and May in the United States. The flu shot can help protect you and those around you from becoming sick from the flu. This is because once you receive your flu shot, your body will start to create protective antibodies that can help to keep you from getting sick if you come in contact with the strains of the flu that are in the shot. If you don't get sick, those around you will not be able to catch the flu virus from you.
The flu is highly contagious and can cause serious complications and death, especially among the very young and elderly populations. According to the CDC, flu-associated deaths in the United States can range from 3,000 in a low mortality year to 49,000 deaths in a particularly bad flu season.
What are symptoms of the flu?
The flu can be similar in symptoms to a cold, but usually occurs suddenly and lasts longer with more severe symptoms. Symptoms may include all or some of the following.
- Sore throat
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Body aches
Who should receive the flu shot?
The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months receive a flu shot every year unless contraindicated.
What kinds of flu shots are available?
There are several different types of flu vaccine available each year. The most common is a trivalent influenza vaccine that contains three different strains of the flu virus and is given in the deltoid muscle in the arm. There is also a quadrivalent influenza vaccine that contains one additional strain of the flu virus and is also given in the deltoid muscle. These vaccines are given to adults and children over the age of four, and provide adequate protection for the flu season.
For individuals age 65 and older, the high-dose influenza vaccine is recommended to provide the best protection. There is also a pediatric influenza vaccine for children ages 6 months to 35 months. Young children who have never received a flu shot before may need two doses of vaccine in the first season. Check with your child's pediatrician.
Most flu shots are made in a process that uses chicken eggs to create the vaccines. Those who have an allergy to chicken eggs, latex, or previous flu vaccines should not receive the flu shot. There is a vaccine available in some areas that does not use chicken eggs in the development process so those with egg allergies may still be able to be vaccinated.
Most years there is also an intranasal flu vaccine as well. This vaccine is given as an aerosol sprayed into the nostrils instead of an actual injection. The intranasal flu vaccine is however not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season due to lack of effectiveness in recent years, but CDC is recommending everyone to receive on the injectable versions of the vaccine.
The flu shot takes two weeks to take effect once administered to develop adequate antibodies to start providing protection. The vaccine should be administered early in the season to provide the most protection, at least by early October. If not, the flu vaccine remains available until at least May although supplies may run low by the end of the flu season.
Why do I need the flu shot every year?
The influenza virus is unique in that it is always changing and evolving at a very fast pace. The strains that were prevalent last year may not be the same strains that are likely to circulate this year. Because of this, the flu shot is always evolving and changing as well based on the strains that are believed to be the most likely to make an impact in the United States each year. The CDC also states that the body's immune response to the vaccine wanes over time as well, so each years flu shot also acts as a booster to increase your immunity.
How else can I protect myself from the flu?
The influenza virus is spread through droplets in the air when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. These droplets can land on a persons face, eyes, nose, and mouth causing illness. The droplets can also land on a surface and someone can get infected by touching the surface and then touching their face. The influenza virus can stay alive on surfaces for two to eight hours.
Receiving your annual flu shot is the best way to avoid infection. Washing your hands often during flu season and not exposing yourself to others if infected is also recommended to avoid infection, whether or not you have received the annual flu shot. If soap and water is not available, alcohol based hand sanitizer is also acceptable. If you do develop flu-like symptoms, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to avoid spreading the flu to others.
The flu shot is currently available for the 2016-2017 flu season. Call e7 Health, book your appointment online, or simply walk in to one of our locations for this quick service to get yourself protected for the current season.
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