3 Key Facts to Know About the Flu Shot
One of the best ways to prevent getting the flu virus is to receive a yearly flu shot.
Influenza, more commonly called the flu, is a contagious virus that can cause mild to severe illness. This seasonal illness is caused by the influenza virus and there are two main types: Influenzea A and Influenza B. People who are infected with the flu virus can spread it to others by coughing, sneezing, or even by talking to another person up to 6 feet away. The influenza virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours.
1.) When is the Flu Shot Most Effective
Flu shots are usually available by September and it is best to have your flu shot before the end of October. Usually, the flu season starts as early as October but tapers off by April. Once you receive the vaccine, it takes two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop the antibodies that protect against the flu virus. Flu vaccines are still recommended all the way into January or later however.
2.) Will the Flu Shot Make You Sick?
You cannot catch influenza from the flu shot. The flu shot does not contain any live viruses. The flu shot does not contain Thimerosal (Mercury-based preservative) in single vial/pre-filled syringes. CHI Health Clinic uses single vial/pre-filled syringes.
Studies have shown that getting a flu shot can keep you from getting the flu. The flu shot can also reduce the risk of flu occurring in children, older adults, pregnant women, and people that are immunocompromised such as cancer patients.
The flu vaccine has also been shown to reduce the severity of influenza for those people who still get sick despite getting their flu shot.
3.) Who Should Get Vaccinated
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot every year including those at high risk for developing the flu. People at high risk for developing complications from the flu include those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease, pregnant women, and children.
Who should not get vaccinated?
- If you have had a previous severe allergic reaction or have ever had Guillian-Barre syndrome, talk with your healthcare provider to determine if you should not be vaccinated.
- Children less than 6 months of age.
- If you are currently ill with a fever.
Treatment for Influenza
Influenza symptoms usually come on suddenly and commonly include: fever, chills, muscle or body aches, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The only definitive way to know if you have the flu virus is through laboratory testing; most commonly it is done with a nasal swab.
Most people with the flu have mild illness and can be managed at home. If you have the flu, stay home and avoid contact with other people, stay well hydrated, and control fevers with over the counter medication. If you have been diagnosed with the flu, the CDC recommends that you stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medications.
People who are at high risk of developing complications from the flu (young children, elderly, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions) should be tested for the flu as soon as possible and treated with anti-viral medications. Anti-viral medications help decrease the length of time you are sick by 1-2 days and work best if started within two days of onset of symptoms. These medications can come with side effects, most commonly nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
If you are concerned you may have the flu, visit one of our CHI Health locations with walk-in appointments available.
This flu season, be sure to get vaccinated. Also, use general precautions such as good hand washing, wiping down hard surfaces frequently, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and stay home if you are sick.
See all available places to get the flu shot vaccination through CHI Health.
These blogs were written by the CHI Health Primary Care Team.