Why You Need to Get the Flu Vaccine This Season

Health & Wellness

October 29, 2019

An unexpected illness could ruin holiday or travel plans before they even get off the ground. Getting your flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from this serious disease that affects millions of people every year. We collected a list of the more common questions about influenza and its vaccine.

What Is Influenza?

Influenza — more commonly known as the flu — is a widespread and potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 61,200 Americans died of the flu last year, which is the highest death toll in over a decade.

This contagious, respiratory illness is brought on by the flu virus and can show symptoms quickly. It’s important to identify the signs of flu when they appear.

Influenza symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Feverish feeling and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children)

The flu is caused by a virus, and the best way of preventing infection is an annual vaccination.

What is the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is designed to prevent infection from the most common flu viruses. While it’s still possible to get the flu after receiving the vaccine, the vaccine will usually lessen the severity of flu symptoms.

The vaccine is designed to protect against the strains of flu virus likely to be most common throughout the upcoming year. The vaccine can be administered either as an injection or a nasal spray.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

The CDC recommends that anyone older than 6 months should get an annual flu vaccination. For groups determined to be at a higher risk for developing complications from the flu, it is especially important to be vaccinated.

These groups include:

  • Children aged between 6 months and 5 years
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities
  • Anyone with existing medical conditions such as asthma, lung or heart disease or diabetes

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea for everyone older than 6 months to get the flu vaccine, with only a couple rare exceptions, including a severe allergy to antibiotics. If you’re concerned about an allergic reaction, consult with your doctor before getting the vaccine.

Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?

Flu viruses are constantly changing, and each year’s flu vaccine is updated to keep up with changing strains of the flu virus. Also, your body’s immune system response from vaccination weakens over time. An annual vaccine is the best way to maintain optimal protection.

Don’t wait to get the vaccine. Once you begin to experience flu symptoms, it’s too late for the vaccine to protect you. If you do get sick, chances are you will expose other people in your life to the virus, including those that may not be able to receive the vaccine, like infants or the elderly.

What’s in the flu shot?

The flu vaccine contains dead or severely weakened flu viruses that train your immune system to quickly recognize the virus and prevent an infection. Every year, the flu vaccine you receive is is different than the year before.

This is because each year, the vaccine is updated to keep up with the constant changes in the flu virus. Seasonal flu vaccines protect against the strains research indicates will be most common throughout the upcoming season.

Flu vaccines usually contain virus cells grown in eggs. If you have a severe egg allergy, consult with your doctor before getting a vaccine. Cell-based vaccines are available for those with severe egg allergies.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

No, the flu vaccine is made with dead or weakened viruses that cannot cause a full flu infection. Some people do report experiencing a low grade fever, aches or redness, soreness or swelling at the site of the vaccine injection.

Side effects of the nasal spray can include running nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, fever, sore throat or coughing. Side effects for both the shot and the nasal spray are mild, and most quickly subside.

Side effects of the flu shot are no fun, but you can think of it as a good sign. It shows your body needed the extra help to fight the virus and that the vaccine is working. If symptoms do persist, consult with your doctor.

What are the benefits of the flu shot?

A flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu this season.

  • Keep you from getting sick
  • Reduce risk of hospitalization for children and senior citizens
  • Preventive measure for individuals suffering from other chronic conditions
  • Protection during and after pregnancy
  • Protect people around you who don’t have or can’t receive the flu shot

Can I still get the flu if I get the vaccine?

It is rare, but, unfortunately, it is still possible to get the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated. There are a few reasons this can happen.

First, it can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, so exposure before or during that time can result in a flu infection. The symptoms may be less severe in this situation, but you should still consult your doctor.

Each year’s vaccine is formulated to protect against the most common strains of the virus. If you are exposed to a less common strain, the vaccine may not be as effective in preventing infection. Although, evidence shows vaccination can reduce the severity of symptoms in these cases.

Finally, it’s possible to get a strain of the flu the vaccine is designed to protect against. Again, though, vaccination can help to lessen the severity of symptoms.

Vaccines are not 100% effective all the time, but they are the best tool we have to prevent seasonal flu. Last year, it’s estimated vaccinations prevented 5.3 million illnesses and 85,000 hospitalizations.

Flu Shots on Your Schedule

Right now, stop by an IU Health Urgent Care and get a flu shot. Available to ages 9 and older. Visit one of our convenient Indy area locations open 7 days a week. No appointment necessary.

You can also visit one of our Primary Care locations in 50+ offices throughout the state. IU Health is conveniently located and available to you no matter where you live in Indiana.

Find Urgent Care Locations Near You

Protect yourself and your family this flu season. Get your annual flu shot at any of our 10 convenient locations in Central Indiana and across the state. Shorter wait times mean you can be in and out in less than 40 minutes. Walk-in or schedule an appointment.

Find Nearest Urgent Care Location »

Want to know more about IU Health Urgent Care or need to pay your urgent care bill? Learn more here.

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