The Flu shot and Influenza Vaccine

November 12, 2012

The Flu shot and Influenza Vaccine

Each year nearly 20% of Americans catch the flu with more than 200,000 people hospitalised and between 3.000 – 49,000 dying from flu related sicknesses. The best way to protect yourself against the flu is by having a flu shot or influenza vaccine. If everyone took advantage of this opportunity the flu related statistics would decrease dramatically.

Flu season often begins as early as October and ends in May. The best time to get a flu shot is as early on in flu season as possible to minimise the chance of catching flu before you get the vaccine or before it becomes effective. It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for it to become its most effective. Of course you can get the influenza vaccine at any time during the season, but earlier is better.

If you decide that you do want to protect yourself against flu, there are two options available for both children and adults, which you will have to choose from. The first option is the traditional flu shot, administered with a needle and is an inactive form of the virus, which will not cause the flu.

The second option is a nasal influenza vaccine, known as FluMist. This vaccine contains a weakened form of the virus, which although uncommon can cause some mild flu symptoms to develop such as a runny nose, fatigue and congestion. This vaccine is only recommended for healthy people between the ages of 2-49. It is not advisable for pregnant women to use this method. The strains of the virus contained in the vaccine varies each year according to researchers predictions as to which ones are most likely to surface that year.

The flu shot is highly recommended for those people at a higher risk of developing complications after catching the flu. Having said that anyone who would like to reduce the risk of catching the flu should get the annual flu shot. People more likely to develop complications include the young (6 months-18 years), the elderly (50 years and older), residents of nursing homes, pregnant women and caregivers of children under 5. Also adults with heart or lung conditions including asthma or a condition which weakens the immune system, are at a higher risk.

There are a number of cases when it is best to speak to your doctor before getting the flu shot. If you have previously had an allergic reaction to the flu shot or if you are allergic to eggs you should get advice from your doctor first. This is because the vaccine is grown inside eggs. If you have ever had Guillain-Barre syndrome, where the immune system attacks the nervous system or if you are currently sick or feverish you should also talk to your doctor first.

The FluMist influenza vaccine contains a weakened version of live virus and can therefore cause some side effects and should only be taken by healthy individuals between the age of 2 and 49. It is not safe for anyone outside of this age range, pregnant women or individuals with a health condition. Although both the flu shot and the nasal vaccine can cause some side effects it is important to remember that the benefits provided massively out weight the side effects.

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