The flu shot is one of the simplest ways to protect yourself from contracting influenza. From October through May, this virus circulates widely with transmission via coughs and sneezes.
While it’s usually a mild illness that resolves on its own after a couple of weeks, it can also lead to severe complications. This includes pneumonia, dehydration, and secondary bacterial infections. This article provides everything you need to know about getting this vaccine, how it works, side effects, the best time to get it and where you can get one.
What is Influenza?
People commonly refer to the influenza virus as “the flu.” The flu is an infectious disease that comes from the influenza viruses. Infectious diseases are those that grow and spread by microorganisms (which includes bacteria, viruses, and fungi). These diseases may easily spread by droplets in the air or by touching objects that have the virus present.
One of the most common infectious diseases is influenza, which is caused by a virus. Flu viruses are constantly changing. This explains why it’s necessary to get a new flu vaccine every year. Some people have no symptoms when they come down with the flu virus, however, others have mild symptoms. It’s best to stay home from work or school when you have the flu, as it’s quite contagious.
Some people get very sick from influenza and must stay in bed and receive treatment via antibiotics. The most common complications from influenza are bacterial infections of the lung (pneumonia), sinus infections, and ear infections.
What is the Flu Shot?
The flu shot is one of the most common ways to prevent the flu. You can get the shot in a doctor’s office, health clinic or your local pharmacy. Remember, the flu shot is not 100% effective.
The effectiveness depends on several factors, including the age of the person receiving the vaccine or whether the person has received any other recent vaccines. The person’s individual immune system may also play a role.
Getting a flu vaccine regularly can reduce the risk of getting sick with the flu by about 40-60%. This can significantly reduce the risk of developing complications from the flu, including death. An annual shot is best for everyone 6 months and older.
It is especially important for people at high risk of developing complications from the flu, including:
- children under 2 years of age
- pregnant women
- people with certain chronic health conditions
- health care workers
- senior citizens
- anyone who lives with a child less than 2 years of age.
How Does the Flu Shot Protect You?
The flu shot protects against different viruses. A flu shot protects against the influenza virus, which is a virus that can cause a respiratory illness (flu). Getting the flu shot does not protect you from COVID-19. You must specifically get the COVID-19 shot for protection from this virus.
Furthermore, the flu shot does not protect against herpes viruses (such as cold sores) or rhinovirus (the main cause of the “common cold”).
But will the flu shot protect you from getting pneumonia? A pneumonia shot is a vaccine that protects against bacterial pneumonia. It is not the same as a flu shot or the COVID-19 vaccine. There are several types of pneumonia shots that protect against different types of bacteria.
How to Know If You Need a Flu Shot
You can get a flu shot any time between October (when the CDC recommends beginning administration) and May.
Did you have the flu shot last year? There is a chance that you will get some protection against the current year’s viruses. You can also get a flu shot at any time during the flu season, even when the May deadline is over.
If you are unsure whether you need a flu shot, speak with your healthcare provider or family doctor. Your health care provider may ask you several questions to determine whether you need a flu shot, including:
– Are you at high risk of complications from the flu?
– Did you get a flu shot last year?
– Do you live with (or care for) young children?
– Are you pregnant?
– Do you work in health care?
How Does the Flu Vaccine Work?
The flu shot contains inactivated influenza vaccines (IIV) and recombinant influenza vaccines (RIV). The idea is to prevent circulating strains of the virus that may be most common that year. Keep in mind that the flu vaccine does not contain the flu virus. This is a myth and you will not catch the flu directly from the flu vaccine.
The vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies against the inactivated viruses. The antibodies remain active for several months and protect against the flu. If you get the flu shot, you may still get the flu, but it is likely to be less severe and resolve more quickly.
Is the Flu Vaccine Safe?
Most people who get a flu shot experience no serious side effects. However, it is important to know the risks of any vaccine.
There may be some side effects when getting the shot, including soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection and mild fever that may last a couple of days. These side effects are not typically serious and go away quickly.
When to Get a Flu Shot
The best time to get the flu vaccine is during the fall. Ideally, it’s best to get it before the season starts or at the very beginning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting the vaccine for influenza annually between October and December. Studies show that’s when the flu season peaks in the U.S.
The first two weeks in October are a good time to start getting ready for flu season.
Protect Yourself with a Flu Shot from Palm Harbor Pharmacy
If you or your family are susceptible to the flu, the best way to protect yourself is with the annual flu vaccine. Flu shots are best for everyone 6 months of age and older. If you did not get your shot yet, you should do so as soon as possible.
Do you have questions or concerns about the flu vaccine? We are happy to help here at Palm Harbor Pharmacy. You can talk to your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for more information on how to protect yourself from the flu. If you want to get the shot but worry about the about side effects, visit your doctor to learn more about the vaccine and see if it’s right for you. Of course, you can always talk to us at Palm Harbor Pharmacy.
Stay healthy this flu season! Please stop by or call us today for more information.