Believe it or not… it is THAT time of year again. The coughing, sneezing, sniffling, and sore throats are already making their way through our schools and homes. With this time of year, we begin to see such symptoms and start fearing the dreaded flu. How do we protect ourselves and our families from such sickness? While there are certain healthy life choices we can make to lessen our odds, our best option is the flu shot. While the flu shot is not a catchall, it drastically reduces our odds of contracting the worst forms of the flu. Many people have misconceptions on what the shot does and does not do, so let’s approach what the flu shot is, what it does, and why it may be a good choice for you.
The flu vaccine comes in two forms: injection and nasal mist, both of which will protect against the H1N1 strain of flu as well as several other strains predicted to circulate this year. The Center for Disease Control recommends everyone ages 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccine, but how you receive it may be up to you. The injection form of the vaccine contains an inactive form of the virus, and is safe for people 6 months and older. Since with this form you receive an inactive virus, you cannot transmit the flu to anyone. Some may opt for the nasal mist vaccine, available to healthy people ages 2-49. The nasal mist is given through a spray (no shot needed) which contains a weakened, yet live, flu virus. In rare cases the flu can be transmitted to others with this option. In either case, the vaccine allows your body to develop antibodies necessary to ward off the flu virus.
I often hear people say they don’t get the flu vaccine, because they got it once and then got the flu. The flu vaccine will never give you the flu, however, there may be some reasons why people think this. Some people have a reaction to the vaccine, therefore having muscle soreness and fever for a few days, and those that receive the mist may even have runny nose, congestion, headache, and sore throat. This is just the body adjusting to the vaccine. In addition, the vaccine takes about 2 weeks to become totally effective, so if you are exposed to the virus during that window, you could get the flu (just another reason to get vaccinated early!). The flu vaccine is created months before flu season hits, therefore it is possible that the strains the vaccine is built to protect against may not be those that circulate, making contracting the flu a possibility. Last, many sicknesses mimic the flu, but are not influenza itself, often leading people to believe they have the flu.
Assuming the flu strains that circulate this year are covered by the vaccine, the vaccine is 71% effective in adults, 77% in adults 50+, and 74% effective in children. These odds are definitely great enough to see the value in receiving the vaccine. Even if you have had the vaccine in the past, it is important you get it again this year, as the vaccine is always changing to make sure it protects against relevant strains of the virus, not to mention, the effectiveness of old vaccines decrease over time. If you pair the vaccine with healthy choices like regular hand washing, using alcohol based sanitizer, avoid touching your face, as well as keeping yourself healthy with plenty of sleep, exercise, fluids, nutritious foods, and stress management, you should be able to face flu season with confidence.
If you are a member of VIP Medical Services, feel free to call Dr. Holt or the office with further questions. If you are looking for a new Primary Care provider, consider making VIP Medical Services your healthcare home! We offer a higher standard of primary care at affordable prices. 417-485-4847