Like many others you may find yourself considering getting a flu shot this season but have questions on what the flu is and what are the risks of getting a flu shot. Keep reading to discover who should get a flu shot (and spoiler alert – the flu shot won’t actually make you sick!).
What is the flu?
The “flu” that the flu shot is for is not the same as the stomach flu. Influenza is a virus that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. The influenza virus spreads by coming into contact with droplets from someone who is sick; these droplets spread when people cough, sneeze, or talk.
Some people only get a mild illness when they get the flu. However, some people can become extremely ill and need to be in the hospital. The flu can also progress and cause pneumonia, sinus infections, and even death. The people most at risk for developing serious complications from the flu are those 65 and older, those with chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung problems, and young children.
Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?
Getting your flu shot helps prevent you from being infected with the flu, but also helps protect those around you by decreasing the chance of infection and sickness. The vaccine has also been shown to decrease the severity of your illness if you do become infected with the flu; it can also decrease the risk of death and hospitalization from infection.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
The effectiveness of the vaccine changes from year to year. Each year, the vaccine is formulated to cover the most likely strains of flu that will be circulating that flu season. Even though you might get infected with a different strain of flu, the vaccine has still been shown to help decrease the severity and duration of your illness.
Does a flu shot have side effects? How long do they last?
Common minor side effects include soreness/redness/swelling at the injection site, low grade fever, body aches. These effects typically only last a few days. The symptoms are not because you have an active flu infection, but is your body’s response to learning how to fight off the flu virus and creating antibodies to keep you protected if you are exposed to the influenza virus. Less common side effects include severe allergic reactions. See your family doctor right away if you show extreme side effects.
Can you get the flu from your flu shot?
NO. The flu vaccine is made with killed or inactivated viruses, so they cannot cause infection.
Who should get a flu shot?
For Children and Families: The flu shot is recommended yearly for anyone 6 months of age or older. People who should not get the flu shot include children younger than 6 months old and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine. If you have an egg allergy or a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, you should talk to your doctor before getting the flu shot.
For Individuals 65+: People age 65 and older are at higher risk for serious complications from the flu. There is a formulated high dose flu vaccine that creates a stronger immune response after vaccination than the standard dose flu vaccine. It is also acceptable to receive the standard vaccine, but the high dose may provide better protection from the flu.
Where can I get a flu shot?
Call your local family doctor to make an appointment. Individuals 65+ should confirm when making an appointment that the clinic can provide a high-dose flu shot. To find a clinic near you, visit WMMC.com/Family.
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About Western Missouri Medical Center
Western Missouri Medical Center (WMMC) is a fully-accredited acute care county medical center located in Warrensburg, MO. WMMC prides itself in emergency care, obstetrics, orthopedic and general surgery, family healthcare, internal medicine, outpatient clinics, ambulatory care, rehabilitation services and more. Inpatient services include medical, surgical, intensive, obstetrical, orthopedic, pediatric and skilled nursing care, as well as a wide range of therapeutic and diagnostic outpatient services. This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Learn more at WMMC.com.