If you have achy muscles, fatigue, fever, chills, headache and stuffy nose, chances are you have the flu. At this point, one of the only things worse than having the flu is knowing that you could have done something to help prevent it. This year, don’t let the flu conquer you. Prepare for the season by visiting your local pharmacy, clinic or physician and getting your annual flu shot.
Do you need a flu shot?
More than likely, the answer is yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine.
The flu shot is necessary every year because of the variety of influenza virus strains, which typically change from year to year. The immunity that comes from the flu shot actually lasts throughout the year, so you don’t have to put it off to make it last longer. Your best defense against the flu is to get the vaccination as soon as it becomes available in the fall. The flu vaccine for the 2011/12 season protects against three types of the flu virus: H1N1 – the 2009 influenza A virus; H3N2 – another influenza A virus; and an influenza B virus. These happen to be the same strains that went around last flu season.
Worried about allergies?
Flu vaccinations are made with eggs, so they contain small amounts of egg protein. Mayo Clinic physician James T. C. Li, M.D., Ph.D., recommends that you speak with your doctor before getting a flu vaccination if you have ever had an allergic reaction to eggs. Li writes that, in many cases, people with egg allergies can get a flu shot. Your doctor can determine whether you’re one of them by administering a skin test. Your doctor may also recommend a different dosage of the vaccination and monitor your reaction to the shot for a set period afterward.
Can the flu shot give you the flu?
Misconceptions about influenza vaccines continue to abound. The U.S. government’s flu.gov covers many common questions, including the concern about getting the flu from a flu shot. Though the influenza viruses are contained in a flu shot, they are inactivated – or killed – so the vaccination itself cannot give you the flu; however, it is possible to get the flu or flu-like symptoms after you have received the flu shot. For example, exposure to the virus before getting vaccinated or even two weeks after may result in illness. Non-flu viruses with similar symptoms also circulate during flu season, and the vaccine will not protect you from those. Also, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly can remain unprotected from the flu even after getting the vaccine. Vaccination, however, can lessen illness severity and is particularly important for people who are at higher risk for potentially serious flu-related complications.