People generally belong to one of two camps when it comes to flu shots. They either think they work or they don’t. Some people in the latter group take their beliefs ever farther. They think the flu shot actually gives them the flu. Anyone who doesn’t understand how the flu shot works is more likely to be skeptical.
Do I Really Need a Flu Shot?
The flu and colds usually get thrown together as the common illnesses of cold weather. There’s a big difference between the two viruses and the impact they have on people every year. The only time a cold becomes dangerous is if it advances to a more severe illness like pneumonia. Flu, on the other hand, makes millions of people seriously ill every year. That’s why The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that almost everyone six months old and older get an annual flu shot. The only exceptions are for people who are allergic to any of the vaccine’s ingredients and children under six months of age.
How the Flu Shot Works
The most important thing to know about your flu shot is that the influenza virus used to make it is dead. It can’t actually cause the flu by being injected into your body. After the injection, your body’s immune system begins to build antibodies to fight the virus. The antibodies don’t realize that it isn’t alive and treat it like an active threat. The antibodies fit together with the virus, or antigen, like a lock and key. These antibodies are specific for that particular flu virus. Your body continues to make more and more copies of the antigen. It takes about two weeks to build an effective army to stop you from getting the flu. If you are exposed to the flu virus before then, you can still get infected. This is the reason many people falsely believe the flu shot can give you the flu.
Another reason is the symptoms they experience immediately after having the vaccination. Some may have irritation at the sight of the injection, run a low fever, and experience mild aches and pains. These are not symptoms of the flu, but of the body’s immune response to the virus.
How Your Flu Shot Gets to Your Doctor’s Office
Some viruses, like the chicken pox, stay the same and don’t require repeated vaccinations. Once you receive a vaccination, it protects you for the rest of your life. The flu virus is different. There are many strains of influenza, and they change at the genetic level continually. This is why scientists work to identify the dominant strains prior to peak flu season each year. The vaccine is changed when necessary to provide the best protection against the flu virus.
Scientists representing the World Health Organization evaluate the dominant flu strains around the globe twice each year. By observing flu activity in areas that have winter and flu season ahead of ours, they can determine which strains will pose the biggest threat. This system is never 100% effective. Some years, the flu shot has offered only minimal protection. The speed at which mutations occur makes it possible the virus will change before flu season arrives. There’s also the possibility that the scientists will guess incorrectly and use the wrong strains. In either case, the flu shot will not be as effective against the virus. Considering the potential impact the virus can have, a flu shot that is less effective is still much better than no flu shot at all.
All flu shots are not formulated the same, either. Some have three components while others have four. Nasal spray flu vaccines are also available. Although nasal sprays contain a live virus, it is cold-adapted and weakened so that it cannot cause the flu.
Doctors recommend different types of flu vaccines for different age groups. Three-component shots are recommended for people aged 65 years and older while a shot that is egg-free is approved for use in pregnant women. Your doctor will determine the best type of flu vaccine for your condition and your age.
Experts recommend getting your flu shot late in September or early in October. Typically, in the Jackson metro area, October is the ideal time for vaccinating you and your family. Why wait? It is possible to get your vaccine too early. Getting the shot months before flu season could prevent you from having optimal protection when you need it the most.
When it comes time for your vaccine, you can rely on TrustCare Express Medical Clinics for a fast visit to get your flu shot and protect your family. Find a convenient location near you.