Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that affects thousands of people each year in the US. Though anyone can be at risk for contracting the flu, children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to contract the influenza virus. Pregnant women and those with heart, lung, or kidney disease are also at an increased risk for the flu virus. The influenza vaccine, or more commonly referred to as a flu shot, is a quick and easy way to protect yourself from the virus. Each year, it is recommended that you receive a flu shot during the flu season which spans from October to May. It is suggested that you receive the vaccine in early Autumn as the vaccine takes several weeks to take full effect.
The spread of the virus is mainly through fluid exposed during sneezing, coughing, or talking. The virus is easily spread to not only other people, but can also contaminate inanimate objects with germs that can then be transferred to other individuals.
Common symptoms of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Stuffy or runny nose
Many people who contract the flu will not need to seek medical care. Standard recovery time is around 2 weeks. Though in extreme circumstances, severe onset of the virus can lead to hospitalization or other complications, sometimes even death. Some of the complications that can be seen following the flu:
- Sinus infection
- Ear infection
Individuals 6 months and older are recommended to receive the flu vaccine at the start of each flu season. Flu vaccines are created to defend against 3 to 4 strains of the virus which research predicts will be the most common seen for each season, therefore it is important to get the vaccine each year. The vaccine itself contains an inactivated, or recombinant, form of the virus which creates antibodies in the immune system that will help protect against infection for the particular viruses. These antibodies develop in the body within 2 weeks of receiving the injection.
There may be some mild side effects with the flu vaccine, though these will be short-lived. Soreness, swelling, and redness at the injection site as well as a low-grade fever and aches have been reported. In rare occasions, an allergic reaction can occur. You cannot contract the flu virus from the vaccine.
There are some conditions in which the flu shot should be avoided. Patients with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, asthma, certain allergies, and other immune deficiencies should not get the flu vaccine. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your medical history to insure that the flu shot is safe for you.
Flu vaccines are a quick and affordable means to protect you and your family from the influenza virus. In most cases, you flu shot is covered under your healthcare plan. Prevention is always key, and flu shots make that possible.