Flu Shots: When to get them and why they are important

What is the flu: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by an influenza virus.

Symptoms of the flu include: fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny/ stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

The flu virus is mainly spread by respiratory droplets from someone with the flu who coughs, sneezes or even talks. When these droplets enter the mouths or noses of people nearby, there is a potential for infection. Touching an area exposed to these droplets then touching your own mouth, eyes or nose can also lead to infection. Most people with the flu are contagious one day before developing any symptoms and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. In fact, most people are exposed to the flu two to four days before symptoms appear.

In Arkansas, Flu seasons lasts from October to May with the heaviest times between December and April.

Flu shot has lasting immunity for about six months. Important to get the flu shot between October and January. The sweet spot is beginning of October to Middle of November. This allows enough time to build immunity before the flu season hits hard, but also cover the spring flu season.

Does the flu shot cause the flu?

Most flu vaccines contain parts of the flu virus, but does not include a live version of the flu. It is impossible to contract the flu from the vaccine. It is possible to have mild symptoms after receiving the vaccine due to the natural immune building response that the vaccine promotes. These symptoms may include mild fever, aches, and fatigue, but should not last more than one to two days after the shot.

But I know someone that got the flu shortly after getting the shot:

The reason it is important to get a flu shot before flu season is that it takes about two weeks to build full immunity to the viruses included in the flu vaccine. Contracting the flu during that two week period is possible. It is also possible that the particular strain of flu was not covered with the vaccine. Flu viruses are ALWAYS changing. For this reason, scientists try to predict which flu viruses are most likely to cause the majority of the cases of flu. They do this based off of data in the southern hemisphere, assuming the same or similar strains will migrate north. The flu vaccine is made to cover three to four viruses for each flu seasons. Even when the vaccine does not exactly match the virus, it may still provide some protection. It is important to remember that the flu vaccine cannot prevent a flu strain that is caused by a virus no covered in the vaccine and illnesses that look like the flu, but are not.

Are there options other than a shot?

In short, no. In the past the nasal vaccine was used in children and for those wishing not to be given a shot. Unfortunately, that vaccine has not been very effective the last three years. Due to this, the CDC no longer recommends using this formulation.

Why is it important to get a flu shot?

The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. While cases of flu mostly range from mild to moderate, some cases can lead to severe illness and even death. The flu shot is especially important in populations at high risk of complications, including pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydrations, and worsening of chronic medical conditions (ex asthma, diabetes, COPD, and congestive heart failure). These populations include people 65 year sand older, any one with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and young children. The CDC estimates there are 25-50 million cases of flu reported each year. This included more than 200,000 people hospitalized and 23,600 deaths due to the flu. The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of hospitalization by as much as 70% and decrease the risk of death by 85% in high risk populations. Last year in Arkansas, there were 62 influenza related deaths and over 700 flu related hospitalizations between October and April.

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No information or content on this website is to be taken as implicit or explicit advice. Please contact a medical professional for guidance.

Photos on this website are provided by Vowell Publishing, Inc. and NARMC.