Flu season is here, and folks across the country are heading to their doctor’s office or local pharmacy to get their annual influenza vaccine. If you regularly get a flu shot each year, then you have probably already been vaccinated or plan to take care of it soon. However, if you are new to flu shots or have heard some of the rumors of bad reactions and people getting sick, you likely have some questions you would like answered before deciding whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks. Here are answers to a few common questions about flu shots.
Who should and should not get flu shots?
It is recommended that everyone over the age of six should get an annual flu shot. Those who are currently ill or have Guillain-Barre Syndrome should speak to their doctors to determine when or if they should get a flu shot. Those who are severely allergic to eggs or other components in influenza vaccine, or who have reacted negatively to a flu shot in the past, should talk to their doctor about other options, such as a vaccine delivered through nasal spray.
Why do I need a flu shot each year?
Flu viruses evolve and change, which means flu vaccines must also change in order to provide the best protection. Flu vaccine developers work to include the most likely culprits for each year’s flu season in that year’s flu vaccine.
Can I get the flu from the flu shot?
No. Inactivated influenza vaccine injections do not contain living flu viruses; therefore, you cannot catch the flu from getting a flu shot.
What negative side effects might I experience after getting a flu shot?
Some people report mild redness, swelling or soreness at the injection site. Other complaints include fatigue, itching, fever, headache, sore or itchy eyes, or a cough. These mild side effects generally subside within two days. If a more severe reaction is experienced, such as a high fever, hives, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing or dizziness, you should contact your doctor immediately. Those who experience a severe reaction should also consider filing a claim with the Vaccine Adverse Event Reaction Reporting System (VAERS). This can be accomplished by calling 1-800-882-7967 or visiting the VAERS website at www.vaers.hhs.gov.
If you have questions about inactivated influenza vaccines and whether or not you should get a flu shot this year, speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider about your particular situation. You can also visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/flu to learn more.