Most Common Flu Shot Questions, Answered.
Maria A. Di Giovanni, MD, Internal Medicine, Stamford Health Medical Group and Michael F. Parry, MD, Chair of Infectious Diseases
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The first question you’re asking yourself is probably, “Do I really need to get a flu shot?” While the choice is yours and yours alone, there are a few facts you may want to consider if you’re apprehensive or on-the-fence about the vaccine.
Q: How serious is the flu? Is it just like a really bad cold?
A: In simple terms, when you have the flu, you feel a lot worse than when you have the common cold. Symptoms can definitely vary by age, but the basics are:
-Fever with chills
-Runny or stuffy nose
The flu can strike anyone suddenly and can last several days, with peak season being anywhere from October-May. It can be more dangerous for infants and young children, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with underlying heart and lung disease, or people with a weakened immune system.
Q: What’s the worst possible case scenario for someone who has the flu?
A: Every year, thousands of Americans die from the flu and even more are hospitalized. The flu can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and can bring about diarrhea and seizures in children. Heart and lung complications may arise from the flu.
Q: But… Can’t the shot actually cause the flu?
A: No! This is a common misconception. There’s no live flu virus in the flu shot. In fact, there are many influenza viruses and they’re constantly changing. That’s why, every year, a new vaccine is created to help protect against the 3-4 strains that are most likely to cause the disease. The vaccine still provides substantial protection even if it doesn’t exactly match the strains.
Q: Last year, I got sick from the shot. Why?
A: You may get sick, but it’s not from the shot. It’s important to understand that the flu vaccine targets specific strains of influenza, and it is inactive. There are many other viruses and bacteria that can make you sick with symptoms like the flu.
Q: Tell me: why should I get this vaccine again?
A: The flu vaccine can:
-Keep you from getting the flu.
-Make you less sick if you do acquire the flu.
-Keep you from spreading the disease to those around you, which your family, friends and colleagues will appreciate!
Remember, the earlier in the season you get the vaccine, the better. It takes about two weeks for the shot to fully take effect in protecting you against the virus. The vaccine is designed to last all-flu-season long (October-May).
Let’s fight the flu and stay healthy!
Source Cited: cdc.gov/flu