While it is difficult to track flu-related deaths, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that anywhere from 12,000 to 56,000 Americans die each flu season. Annually, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with influenza. The elderly, the young and those with a compromised immune system are at greater risk of developing serious complications from the flu.
With so much at stake, you can’t afford to believe common myths and misinformation that resurface every year during flu season. We’ve provided some important facts so you can be adequately prepared.
Does the flu shot cause the flu?
The flu shot does NOT cause the flu. This is probably the most prevalent myth concerning the influenza vaccination. The vaccines are made with “inactivated” flu viruses, which means there is no way you can get the flu from a flu shot.
In cases where someone does develop the flu afterwards, he or she most likely had the disease before getting inoculated. It can take a week or more for flu symptoms to surface. It’s also important to remember that there are several different “flu-like” viruses.
In addition, the effectiveness of the vaccine depends upon how closely it “matches” the viruses spreading illnesses. This means those who get sick after the flu shot may not have the actual flu, but a similar flu-like illness.
Why do some people not feel well following a flu shot?
It’s not unusual for some to have mild reactions to the flu shot. This is your body’s initial immune response; it’s reacting to a foreign substance that has entered the body (the dead virus from the flu vaccine.)
These reactions can include:
- Soreness where the shot was given
- Mild achiness
- Redness at shot site
- Low grade fever
- Swelling where the shot was given
Fortunately, these symptoms usually only last a few days.
Will the flu vaccine help if you already had the flu?
No. The vaccine will not help if you’ve already developed the flu. However, in many cases, it makes symptoms more bearable.
Who should receive the flu shot?
The Centers for Disease Control states that everyone who is 6 months and older should get the flu shot before the end of October. However, because the flu season stretches beyond January — sometimes even until late May – it is still worthwhile to get the flu vaccine after October. Remember that children who need two doses of the vaccine will need to have those at least four weeks apart.
Is there anyone who should NOT receive the flu shot?
Those with the following conditions should speak with their primary care physician at Raleigh Medical Group, Raleigh Adult Medicine or Cary Medical Group for more information on whether or not the flu vaccine is the right choice.
The Centers for Disease Control advise that the following people should NOT receive the flu shot:
- Those with an egg allergy.
- Those who are allergic to any substance in the vaccine. This may include antibiotics or gelatin.
- Those who have moderate-to-severe illness with or without fever.
- Children who are younger than 6 months.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have the flu or a flu-like illness:
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Body / muscle aches
Vomiting and diarrhea can also be a symptom, but this is much more common in children than adults. It’s also important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever.
What’s in store for us during the 2017-2018 flu season?
Each year, the Centers for Disease Control evaluates how well seasonal vaccines are working and adjusts its strategy accordingly. A few notes concerning the 2017-2018 flu season include:
- The CDC does NOT recommend using a nasal spray flu vaccine. Only injectable flu shots are recommended.
- Flu vaccines have been updated to help them match circulating viruses better.
- Pregnant women should check with their doctor before having any flu vaccine, but the CDC recommends that any pregnant woman may receive a licensed and recommended flu vaccine.
Tracking the flu
The Centers for Disease Control also tracks flu information across the United States. Each week, an updated map of regional and national flu activity can be found on their website. This will let you know if your state shows sporadic, local, regional or widespread flu activity. Local flu updates can also be found on the website for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Want to know more? Read these other articles for more useful information about the flu: