It’s that time of year again where we all start to worry about flu season. But what if you could skip out on it this year? It is possible with the flu vaccine! Each year, roughly 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for flu complications. The vaccine can help reduce that number.
Here are some of the most important things to know about the flu vaccine and ways to prevent the flu.
How the Flu Vaccine Works
The flu vaccine is created using an inactivated version of the flu virus. Contrary to some popular myths, the vaccine cannot give you the flu. It helps protect you by building up your immune system with antibodies that can fight against the strains it is made to prevent. The flu virus changes each year, so the vaccine needs to be altered. That is why you need a new one every year for maximum effect.
Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine
While the flu vaccine can’t give you the flu, there are side effects you should be aware of, including:
- Muscle aches
These side effects are typically mild and will go away within a few days after getting the vaccine. When compared to the flu itself, these side effects are very minimal.
Types of Flu Vaccines
The flu vaccine may be administered in one of two ways:
The flu shot is the most common type of vaccine. It is an injection that contains the inactive virus and is given in the arm.
The nasal spray vaccine is a newer version that contains a live but weakened virus. The nasal spray is for people aged 2-49 years old who are not pregnant.
Should I Get the Flu Vaccine?
It is recommended that those six months and older get the vaccine, especially high-risk individuals such as those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, and those 65 years or older. While the vaccine can significantly reduce your chances of getting the flu, a few groups should not get it. Among those are:
- Those with a previous bad reaction to the vaccine
- Young children under six months old
- Those with Guillain-Barré Syndrome
*Those with egg allergies should be cautious as some vaccines are made with egg proteins. However, according to the CDC, those with an egg allergy should still get vaccinated as the risk of a serious reaction is low.
When it comes to determining who can and cannot receive the nasal spray vaccine, things can be a little more complicated. Those who should not get the nasal spray vaccine include:
- Children under two years old
- Adults over the age of 50
- Those who are pregnant
- Children between 2-4 years old with asthma
- Individuals recently taking antiviral medications
How Effective is the Flu Vaccine?
The vaccine’s effectiveness can vary depending on the year, the person, and the strains of the virus. However, on average, the vaccine is between 40-60% effective in preventing the flu. The vaccine is not a cure for the flu, but it can help reduce the severity and duration of the illness should you get the flu.
Other Ways to Slow the Spread
If you cannot receive the vaccine or want to take extra precautions, there are other ways to help reduce your chances of getting sick and spreading the virus. This flu season, be sure to:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading the flu.
- Clean surfaces that may be infected or are frequently touched
- Avoid touching your face
With these tips and the help of your flu vaccine, you can skip out on the flu this season.