Flu Season: Tips from Dr. Elizabeth Carter
What You Need to Know for the Upcoming Flu Season
Flu season is almost here and retail pharmacies have started advertising for flu shots. Should you get vaccinated? If you are over 6 months of age, the answer is yes! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that flu season can start as early as October and last as late as May. It is important to get vaccinated before flu season hits in full force because it takes the vaccine about two weeks to become effective in our bodies. Our bodies need to be ready to fight off the flu before we come in contact with the virus. It is also important to get vaccinated so that you help stop the spread of the virus, which helps protect people who are ineligible for the vaccine and infants who are too young to be vaccinated.
Almost everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot. The only reason to avoid vaccination is if you have severe, life-threatening reactions to any component of the influenza vaccine (e.g. gelatin, antibiotic, etc…).
It is no longer recommended to avoid the flu shot in people >18 years old with egg allergies.
- Adults with egg allergies can receive Flublock, a vaccine made without the use of chicken eggs.
- Flublock should be available from your local community pharmacy.
- If Flublock is not available, people with egg allergies can receive a flu shot from a physician who is trained to handle severe allergic reactions.
- Those who have only a mild reaction to eggs, such as hives, can receive a flu shot from any healthcare provider licensed to immunize.
- You should talk with your doctor before getting the flu shot if you have a history of an allergic reaction to any part of the vaccine, or if you have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).
- If you have a cold or other acute illness, it is best to wait until you feel better before receiving the flu shot.
The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) have no preference on which flu vaccine to get as long as you are vaccinated with a vaccine approved for your age group. The one caveat is that the intranasal vaccine is not recommended this flu season, but there are several other injectable vaccines are available. The influenza vaccine comes in trivalent and quadrivalent formulations; the trivalent covers three strains of influenza while the quadrivalent covers four strains. The quadrivalent vaccines typically cost more than the trivalent vaccines, so check with your pharmacist to see what your copay might be for each vaccine.
Different vaccines are approved for different age ranges.
- The only vaccines that are approved for infants 6 months old and older are the Fluzone Quadrivalent 0.25 mL prefilled syringes and the Fluzone Quadrivalent multi-dose vials.
- Visit the CDC website listed below to see age restrictions for other influenza vaccines.
- Adults at least 65 years old can receive a high-dose trivalent vaccine (Fluzone High-Dose) or a trivalent vaccine made with adjuvant (Fluad).
- Both of these vaccines help older adults mount a better immune response to the influenza vaccine thus increasing the vaccine’s effectiveness in protecting against influenza.
- Fluad does contain latex, so it should be avoided in people with a latex allergy.
The last important thing to remember about the flu vaccine is that it cannot cause the flu!
However, some people may experience flu-like symptoms (low-grade fever and aches) after receiving the vaccine. These symptoms are short-lived and should resolve on their own; they are a result of your body creating antibodies to fight off future influenza virus encounters. If you do develop full influenza within a few weeks of receiving the vaccine, it is likely that you came into contact with the influenza virus before receiving the vaccine or before the vaccine had enough time to take effect in your body. Remember, it takes two weeks for the vaccine to be fully effective.
Ask your local pharmacist any questions you may have about the vaccine. Almost all community pharmacies offer immunizations without an appointment, so be sure to get vaccinated this influenza season!
- Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm
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