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Clinic Minute: The Flu Shot

By Susan Whatley
To get a flu shot or not to get a flu shot … that is the question. Only you can answer that question for yourself, but I will summarize some of the basic information the CDC put out about this year’s flu shot. The flu shot changes each year based on which components of the flu virus are circulating. This year’s vaccines will all contain these three components: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus, and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus (B/Victoria lineage). There also is an optional fourth component in some vaccines: B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).
Flu season generally runs from October to May but peaks from December to March. If possible, get your flu shot no later than the end of October so that your body can build up its immunity before peak flu season. Of course, you can get your flu shot any time during the season, even into January or later if flu season continues to linger.
After you get your flu shot, it takes about two weeks for your body to build up full immunity. Therefore, it is still possible to get the flu during those two weeks. It also is possible to get a different component of the flu that is not one of the three or four strains covered by the flu vaccine. However, despite what some will tell you, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot. The virus in the vaccine is dead so it cannot come to life and give you the flu. After getting the injection, your arm may be sore, you may have a low grade fever, and you may have muscle pain, but these symptoms will go away within a day or two and are much less severe than flu symptoms.
It is important to know the symptoms of the flu because treatment needs to happen within 48 hours to make a difference. Many people think they have the flu when they feel bad, but the flu can be worse than just an average cold or virus. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and/or fatigue, along with more severe symptoms. Contact your doctor if you think you have the flu so you can be screened and medications can be prescribed.
Recommendations for patients with egg allergies have changed this year. People with any type of egg allergy previously had to wait around for 30 minutes after receiving a flu vaccine. Now, you can get your flu vaccine and be on your way. If you have had a severe reaction to eggs, you still can receive a flu vaccine but you must receive it in a medical setting and it has to be supervised by a medical professional who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.
Susan Whatley is a nurse practitioner and a neighbor in the Grant Park community.

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