Every year, there is a time when the flu virus circulates in the surroundings causing flu to people of various age groups. Flu is contagious and is easily transferred from one person to the other. A flu shot is taken by many people every year as a preventive step. Let’s learn about its effectiveness and risks.
Flu or Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus. The disease affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Fever, cough and cold, blocked or runny nose, body ache and tiredness are all associated with flu. Usually, it takes around 1-2 weeks for the person to get back to normal. In severe cases, flu results in pneumonia. In the U.S., 10-20% people acquire the disease every year. There are around 200,000 patients of flu visiting hospitals every year. Around 36,000 cases of flu and related complications prove fatal. It is better if a person is vaccinated against flu so that he does not acquire the disease.
Flu Vaccine or Flu Shot
It is a vaccine containing certain strains of dead influenza virus, and is administered in the arm using a syringe and a needle. The dead virus activates the immune system of the body which produces specific antibodies for protection against the virus. The seasonal flu shot contains virus that are commonly found in a particular season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declares the combination of virus strains that are required to be incorporated in the vaccine for a particular season.
Is It Effective?
Flu shot is found to be effective in 70-90% people who have no health-related issues, and are below 65 years of age. It is 30-70% effective in preventing hospitalization for pneumonia and other complications, in elderly persons with chronic diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular problems. After administration, the vaccine shows its effectiveness after 2 weeks or so. It is better to get vaccinated two weeks prior to the onset of the flu season, so that, by the time the flu spreads across the surrounding, your body is prepared to fight against the infection. In the United States, the flu season is usually from November to April. It must also be remembered, that a flu shot is effective only against the strains of virus incorporated in it. If a person contracts a viral infection by a different virus, the flu shot will remain ineffective.
Is It Safe?
Flu shot is safe for use. Some people fear developing flu after its administration. However, this belief is not true. This vaccine contains dead virus which cannot cause infection in the body. A person may feel soreness in the area of administration for 1 or 2 days. There are minor side effects of flu shots which can be treated easily.
Flu shot is contraindicated in people allergic to eggs. Virus incorporated in the vaccine are grown in hen’s eggs. This may result in severe allergic reactions like paleness, weakness, wheezing, breathing problems, dizziness, and increased heart rate. These allergic reactions appear within sometime after the shot is administered. If a person develops serious reaction after taking the vaccine, he/ she must contact the doctor immediately and inform him about the date and time when the vaccine was taken, so that the doctor can take necessary steps to avoid any complications. Rarely, a person may develop Guillain-Barré Syndrome characterized by complete or partial loss of muscle movement and weakness within 6 weeks of taking the shot.
Flu shot is safe for pregnant women. If a woman plans a pregnancy during the flu season, she cannot opt for nasal spray flu vaccine. Instead, a flu shot must be taken to avoid flu and its related complications. It is also safe for breastfeeding women. Nursing mothers can take the vaccine with their doctor’s consultation as it poses no risk to the mother and her baby.
Now you know how safe and effective a flu shot is. The side effects appearing after first administration of the vaccine will diminish in intensity during subsequent administrations. Next time the flu season comes, you know what to do. Go to your doctor, get yourself examined and take that little shot on your body and safeguard yourself from flu-causing influenza virus.