Flu Shot or influenza vaccine is an influenza immunization that is given annually in order to prevent anyone from having flu. Aside from its injection form or Flu Shot, it can also come as a nasal spray vaccine. The Flu Shot is composed of killed virus while nasal spray vaccine contains live but weakened virus. Flu Shot is recommended to be given in September or October, and it will take more or less two weeks in order for it to be effective. The effectiveness of Flu Shot varies depending upon the match of the virus strain and the vaccine used therefore it can only be effective if the virus is fitly matched to the influenza vaccine. Aside from this, the age and health condition of a person also determines the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Flu Shots work by providing antibodies that can protect the body against the infection. Influenza is the primary virus which Flu Shot is fighting against. Influenza viruses are classified into three types, namely designated A, B, and C. Types A and B can lead to contagious respiratory illness, and it commonly occurs during winter. These types of viruses are easily transmittable from person-to-person. On the other hand, influenza C usually caused the mild respiratory illness and may even have no symptoms at all. Flu is considered as a common illness all over the world.
What is Flu Shot used for?
Basically, Flu Shot is used for the prevention of flu. Flu is a viral infection which can be transmitted from person-to-person through droplet contact or from the secretions of the nose and lungs. This infection, known as influenza virus, can reside and multiply in the lungs. Once it occurs, the person may experience symptoms like fever, body malaise or weakness, and body aches.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone who has the age of over 6 months should get the Flu Shot. Although it is recommended for all in general, some group of people is strongly advised to get the Flu Shot annually. These groups include the pregnant women, elderly, asthmatic, diabetic individuals, and people who have chronic lung diseases.
Common side effects of Flu Shot
Flu Shot, just like any other vaccines, can cause some side effects. The chance of having some serious adverse reaction in using Flu Shot is very minimal. Since the virus is killed and inactivated, it will be impossible for the person to get influenza from the shot. But for some cases, a person may experience the following side effects:
1. Mild side effects- These may occur after having the shots, but usually subsides in one to two days.
- Body ache
- redness, soreness, or swelling on the site of injection
- hoarseness of voice
- sore or red eyes
2. Severe side effects
- Allergic reactions- This can be life-threatening and needs immediate attention. When anaphylactic shock occurs, there can be narrowing of airways, and difficulty of breathing. It is a very rare side effect, but if it happen, it usually be seen shortly after the shot was given.
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)- It is a neurologic condition that specifically affects the peripheral nervous system.
It is important to speak to your physician first before having the Flu Shot if you have the following conditions:
- If you have a fever
- Allergic to eggs (since influenze vaccine is from eggs) – If you have a severe allergy to eggs, Flu Shot should be avoided.
- You experience allergic reaction in the past flu vaccination you had.
- You previously suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome- Flu Shot should be taken in precaution since it is strongly linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurologic disorder.
Flu Shot side effects on children
If Flu Shots are given along with pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13), there is a higher risk for children to develop seizures, convulsions, or high fever. Aside from this, children may also experience the side effects listed above. In addition to that, more children also reported of having runny nose, nasal congestion, wheezing, and abdominal pain after having the Flu Shot.
Generally, Flu Shots are not given to children below six months of age because of the possible health risks it may bring.
Flu Shot side effects on men
Gender specification does not actually play any role on the development of any side effects. Both men and women have equal chance of having any of the side effects that are listed above.
Flu Shot side effects on women
Again, men and women may experience almost all of the side effects mentioned above like fever, soreness, fatigue and headache.
Flu Shot side effects on pregnant women
During pregnancy, vaccination is a very important issue. It is a must to have a Flu Shot during pregnancy in order to prevent having flu which can develop into pneumonia. Pregnant women are considered as high risk individuals therefore, flu vaccination is strongly urged to practice. Flu Shots are safe for pregnant and lactating women. There are no noted serious side effects that could potentially harm both the mother and the baby.
Flu Shot side effects on elderly
Flu Shots are also a must in every elderly individual since they already have a weak immune system due to normal aging process. In fact according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, higher doses for elderly, or people with the age of 65 and above, is strongly recommendable. However, elderly individuals are still not exempted on having some of the mild side effects listed above (but having side effects are rare).
Aside from the traditional Flu Shot, and nasal spray, flu vaccine is also available in high-dose Flu Shot, and intradermal Flu Shot. The high-dose Flu Shot, which is given to elderly patients, is the same as the traditional Flu Shot except that they have higher dose. On the other hand, intradermal Flu Shot is given on skin deep area. It is mostly used for people with the age of 18 to 64.