Coming down with influenza or the flu is never a fun experience. The flu usually leads to a fever, cough, chills and body aches. It can leave you bedridden for a few days, but it often leads to more serious complications in young children and older adults. Fortunately, the flu vaccine can prevent the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu vaccine is usually available by September of each year. The vaccine changes from year to year to protect against the most common strains of influenza, so even if you get a vaccine one year, you should still get a new one the next. The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age receive the vaccination. It is especially important for certain groups, such as pregnant women, nursing homes residents and those in the health care industry, to receive the vaccine.
There are two types of flu vaccine. The shot contains inactive strains of the virus and is usually injected into your upper arm. Most people over 6 months old can receive the flu shot. The other type of vaccine is a nasal spray that contains a live strain of the virus, though in a weakened form. Unlike the flu shot, the nasal spray should not be given to children under 2 years of age, according to the CDC, nor to people over age 50. People with a chronic medical condition should receive the shot and not the nasal spray.
The flu vaccine’s effectiveness varies from person to person, and depends on how well the strains in the vaccine match the actual virus strains, according to the CDC. The vaccine is usually most effective in healthy people and reduces their chance of getting the flu by up to 90 percent, according to the CDC. The vaccine is a little less effective at preventing the flu in people living in nursing homes, those who have chronic infections and in young children.
Some people worry that getting a flu shot or the nasal spray may actually give them influenza. Since the virus strains in the shot are dead, and the virus strains in the spray are weakened, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine, according to Flu.gov. You also only need to receive one vaccination each season, even if you get it as early as possible. There is also no such thing as getting vaccinated too late. You can still be protected from the flu even if you do not get vaccinated until late November or December.
Risks and Side Effects
Unfortunately, not everyone can receive the flu vaccine. Some people are allergic to the ingredients in the nasal spray. People who have a chicken or egg allergy should also avoid the vaccine as should anyone who previously received the vaccine and had a negative reaction to it. If you have a fever, you should wait to be vaccinated. Common side effects from the shot include soreness on the arm, a fever and body aches. Side effects from nasal spray include a runny nose, headache and cough.