OVERVIEW OF FLU SHOT
The flu shot is a vaccine recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations worldwide to be injected annually to lower the chances of getting influenza or the flu. However, the administration of the flu vaccine is a subject of much debate and controversy.
While it is said to be largely beneficial, it can also cause complications and side effects, some of which can be very serious. So to see if flu shots are for you, keep reading to learn more about flu shots pros and cons and other helpful flu shot facts!
WHAT IS THE FLU?
“Flu” is short for influenza, the technical term for seasonal flu. It is caused by influenza viruses A and B. Symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle soreness, and cold symptoms that are worse and longer-lasting.
WHAT TO TAKE FOR THE FLU?
Ibuprofen like Motrin and Advil, naproxen like Aleve, or Acetaminophen like Tylenol often taken for pain relief and fever.
HOW LONG DOES THE FLU LAST?
Most people recover from flu after one to two weeks and are contagious for five to seven days after the onset of symptoms.
WHAT IS FLU SHOT?
A flu shot is an injection of the routinely available flu vaccine against seasonal influenza. It is considered your best defense against other flu remedies. A flu shot may either contain a killed or alive but inactivated form of the influenza virus. It is administered under the skin or into muscles to stimulate an immune response against the virus so that the next time you’re exposed to it, your body has a way to fight it.
The vaccine is typically given every year during the fall season when the influenza viruses are most common and active.
There are two types of vaccines available: trivalent and quadrivalent. Traditional or trivalent vaccines protect against three strains of flu viruses, namely influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2), and influenza B viruses. There are also quadrivalent vaccines that protect against these three viruses in addition to another influenza B virus.
Thorough research is conducted to determine which flu viruses will be most common each upcoming season and a matching flu vaccine is recommended.
HOW DO FLU SHOTS WORK?
Flu shots contain proteins from viruses or killed or live, inactive viruses. When introduced into the body, these stimulate the body’s immune system to produce antibodies. Antibodies are molecules that protect us from viral infection so that upon exposure to the virus, your body is already equipped and will not be affected. A flu vaccine is, therefore, your best weapon on how to fight the flu. However, a flu vaccine only prompts the production of specific antibodies that fight against the viruses that it contains.
DO FLU SHOTS WORK?
Yes. Flu shots do work by protecting you against the flu. But then again, flu shot effectiveness is limited since one only works for the specific viruses from which it was made.
FLU SHOT INGREDIENTS
Flu vaccine comes in two forms: the nasal spray which contains live but inactivated forms of influenza virus and the flu shot, which contains dead viruses. Other ingredients found in the flu shot are:
- Egg protein: Most flu vaccines are prepared by culturing the viruses in fertilized chicken eggs, which is why they contain a small amount of egg protein.
- Preservatives: Many vaccine producers add the mercury-containing preservative Thimerosal to vaccine vials containing more than one dose of the vaccine to prevent contamination and the growth of potentially harmful bacteria or fungus.
- Stabilizers: Very small amounts of sorbitol, sucrose, 2-phenoxy-ethanol, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) are used as stabilizers for vaccines. They keep the vaccines potent and stable even when exposed to light, heat, humidity, or acidity.
- Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is used to kill or inactivate bacteria and other viruses that might contaminate the vaccine during manufacturing. However, most of it is removed before packaging.
- Antibiotics: Very small amounts of antibiotics like gentamicin, neomycin, and others are added to vaccines to prevent the growth of bacteria during production and storage.
- Polysorbate 80: This is usually added to the flu vaccine solution to keep all of the components evenly distributed.
PROS OF FLU SHOT
- It can keep you from acquiring the flu.
- It will help reduce the severity of flu symptoms.
- Recent versions protect from more types of flu viruses.
- Both children and adults can get the shot.
- Many companies offer it for free.
- It has longer effects than any other flu medicine.
- According to a study in 2016, it can help reduce the risk of hospitalization especially for children and older adults.
- It can reduce hospitalization rates and prevent complications for people with chronic health conditions like cardiac diseases, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
- Based on several studies, flu vaccination during pregnancy helps prevent flu by up to 50%. The mother actually passes the antibodies to the baby, protecting it from flu for several months after birth.
- Another study in 2017 showed that it reduces children’s risk of dying from the flu.
- Another study reported the flu shot facts that if it does not completely prevent all flu types, a vaccination can make the symptoms milder.
- Getting a flu shot not only protects yourself but also the people around you.
CONS OF FLU SHOT
- Most flu shots are not for people who are allergic to eggs.
- It cannot protect you from other diseases with flu-like symptoms.
- It should be taken annually.
- It requires you to get an injection, which can be painful.
- Possible flu shots side effects include pain, swelling, fever, fatigue, or headaches.
- It contains small amounts of mercury and other preservatives.
- It does not guarantee complete flu protection.v
- The flu prevention effects are not immediate. So, because the typical incubation period for flu is only one to four days, most people can acquire the infection before the body produces enough antibodies and can begin to infect others as well.
DOSAGE INSTRUCTIONS OF FLU SHOT
Annual flu vaccination is recommended for people 6 months and older. Generally, the following are the recommended appropriate doses for different age groups:
- Flu shot for toddlers or children 6 to 35 months of age: 0.25 mL to 0.5 mL
- Flu shot for persons 3 years old and older: 0.5 mL
Note, however, that appropriate dosages will vary depending on the patient’s age group, the vaccine product being used, health conditions, and other factors.
Also, people younger than 65 years old should not get the high dose flu vaccine. People older than 64 years old and younger than 18 years old should not be given the intradermal flu shot.
FLU SHOT AND PREGNANCY
Aside from protecting both mother and child from influenza infection, a flu shot during pregnancy also increases the chances of a successful full-term pregnancy. A trivalent inactivated flu vaccine is also protective in HIV-positive pregnant women.
SIDE EFFECTS AND DANGERS OF FLU SHOT
While serious complications are rare, a flu shot does come with several side effects including:
- Soreness, pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Low-grade fever
- Muscle or body aches
- A headache
- Upset stomach
Usually, these side effects are short-lived, mild, and go away within two days after the shot. However, call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Pain lasting for more than two days after a flu shot
- Allergic reactions like wheezing, difficulty breathing, hives, and itching
- High fever
- Fast heart rate
- Numbness or paralysis
- Relax your arm muscles while taking the shot. Do not tense up. Look away if you have to.
- Take a mild pain reliever like Tylenol or ibuprofen to reduce swelling, inflammation, and discomfort.
- Keep your arm moving after the shot. This encourages circulation to distribute the vaccine more quickly instead of concentrating in one spot, which is the cause of muscle soreness.
- Put a warm and cold compress. Icing the injection area will reduce the swelling while a warm compress helps with circulation and relaxes the muscles.
- Exercise. Exercising after a flu shot stimulates circulation and also boosts your body’s immune system, according to a study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. This can possibly improve the vaccine’s effectiveness.
REMEDIES OF FLU SHOT
Flu shot facts: Mild flu shot side effects usually go away untreated. However, here are some ways you can prevent or reduce them:
CAN I GET A FLU VACCINE IF I AM ALLERGIC TO EGGS?
Yes. Many studies have already proven that flu shot allergy may not be a thing. Flu shot egg allergy concerns have been studied and looked into by CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), and other institutions during recent years. They found one of the newest flu shot facts that no matter how severe your egg allergy is or was, the flu shot is safe for people with egg allergies.
If you’re not convinced, you can still opt for flu vaccines formulated without egg proteins. Ask your doctor about the best option for you.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A FLU SHOT TO TAKE EFFECT?
According to flu shot facts, it takes about two weeks after the shot for the body to produce enough antibodies to protect against infection.
DO FLU SHOTS HURT WHEN YOU GET THEM?
If done properly, a flu shot can feel just as much as a pinprick. However, some soreness or pain in the area where the shot was given may occur but lasts for only one to two days. This is normal and is a sign that your immune system is responding. If you’d like to avoid an injection, there is also a less painful although more expensive nasal flu spray.
HOW LONG DOES THE FLU SHOT LAST?
The level of antibodies in the body is reduced by approximately 50% within the first six months, and flu vaccine effectiveness continues to decline over the next months. Also, most vaccines are useless after a single flu season because flu viruses change and mutate rapidly. For these two reasons, flu vaccines must be administered annually to everyone 6 months and older.
FLU SHOT – FINAL VERDICT
Despite many debates and arguments about the flu shot, it’s clear that it does have more benefits than disadvantages based on these flu shot facts. Recent data also debunks the concerns about the shot possibly causing you to get the flu or not being suitable for people with egg allergies. Depending on your age, medical condition, health, and other factors, the side effects are also typically mild and short-lived. Serious adverse flu shot reactions are possible but only happen very rarely.