Have you gotten your flu shot this year? Influenza is a deadly infectious disease that returns every year, threatening young and old alike. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the virus kills on average 36,000 Americans annually, a terrible toll—almost as many as die from auto accidents, but what about flu shot safety concerns?
How The Flu Shot Works:
Flu vaccines (the flu shot and the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses, and influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.
Who Should Get A Flu Shot?
Doctors recommend anyone at risk for the flu should get the vaccine. For seasonal flu, this includes:
- Children ages 6 months to 18 years
- Adults over age 50
- People living in a long term care facility
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with frequent exposure to the general public (health care workers, emergency personnel, etc.)
- Pregnant women
- Anyone with a chronic medical condition
- Caregivers or family members in close contact with high risk individuals
Also, the CDC now recommends flu vaccines for everyone over the age of 6 months old.
Flu Vaccine Myths:
If doctors are a bit confused over the universal recommendation for flu vaccination, the general public is guilty of some wishful thinking.
One in 10 Americans gets the flu each year. While 90% of deaths are in the elderly, many deaths and hospitalizations occur in otherwise healthy children and adults. And even a “mild” case of the flu will make you miserable for a week.
~71% say there are other effective ways to prevent flu (Fact: While hand washing helps, it’s not nearly as effective as vaccination).
~69% say they’re healthy, so why worry about the flu.
~62% believe the flu vaccine can cause the flu (Fact: It can’t) or cause side effects (Fact: The odds of serious harm from a flu shot are extremely small).
~51% worry about vaccine ingredients.
~47% say they never get the flu.
~35% say their immune system will be stronger if they get the flu.
~29% say they don’t believe in any vaccines.
~18% say it’s inconvenient to get vaccinated.
Possible Side Effects:
Most side effects are minor. Some of the more common side effects include:
- Low grade fever
- Soreness at injection site
- Decreased energy
If you experience any:
- Severe swelling
- Difficulty breathing
Contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room, these are signs of allergy or serious complications from the flu vaccine that could be fatal.
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