Tis the Season for Influenza

The Mayo Clinic defines influenza as a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, particularly in young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes to name a few.

Season for Influenza

It’s that time of year again. The season is marked by cold temps, holiday get-togethers, snowflakes, and the flu! What exactly is influenza? What is an influenza vaccine? Who should get an influenza vaccine? Are there any side effects to the influenza vaccination? Can I get influenza from the vaccine? So many questions! Let’s dive in with definitions, answers, and some tried and true facts.

What is influenza?

The Mayo Clinic defines influenza as a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, particularly in young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes to name a few.

Symptoms of influenza include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue.

What is an influenza vaccine?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza (flu) vaccines, often called flu shots, are vaccines that protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming season. Flu viruses can and do mutate, and more than one strain can circulate at the same time.

Flu vaccinations are typically given via a shot in the arm, but a nasal spray flu vaccine is also available. The flu shot that most people get does not contain live virus. Instead, they are made with inactivated viruses, meaning that the viruses or virus parts in the shot have been killed. The nasal spray flu vaccine, however, is made with weakened, but not killed, virus.

It is important to note there are multiple licensed and recommended flu vaccine products in the United States, as well as numerous flu vaccine manufacturers.

Are there any side effects to the flu vaccine?

As with any vaccination, the flu vaccine can cause side effects but the vast majority are mild, completely normal, and go away in a few days. The most common side effect is soreness at the site of injection. If you had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine, check with your doctor. Some reactions might not be related to the vaccine.

The flu vaccine has been around since the 1930s and, overall, is considered extremely safe.

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

The short answer is no. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Some people might, however, develop flu-like symptoms. The Mayo Clinic states this may occur for various reasons, such as:

  • Reaction to the vaccine – Muscle aches or a fever may be a side effect of the body’s production of protective antibodies.
  • Two-week window – It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to take full effect. During this time if you are exposed to the virus you might catch the flu.
  • Mismatched flu viruses – The flu shot may be less effective but still offer some protection if the influenza vaccine does not match the actual viruses circulating during the flu season.
  • Other illnesses – Symptoms of the common cold, for example, are similar to flu symptoms leading you to believe you have the flu when, in fact, you do not.

The flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses, doctor visits, hospitalizations, and death each year. Since 2010, the CDC’s Advisory Committee has recommended that everyone six months of age and older should get an influenza vaccine every year with rare exception. While the vaccine is not 100% effective, it is the best way to prevent the agony of the flu and its potential complications.

Contact your Bluestem Health primary care provider to schedule your flu shot. It’s your best defense against influenza!

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