Let’s talk about the flu.

As the nights get longer, the weather gets cooler, kids go back to school, and Starbucks brings back the Pumpkin Spice Latte, it can be easy to forget that flu season is almost here. Flu outbreaks can occur as early as October and as late as May, so now is the time to get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age or older as the first step to preventing illness. If you have not yet been vaccinated, or have only recently been vaccinated (the vaccine takes 2 weeks to become effective), you should stay away from those who are or may be sick with the flu and wash your hands frequently.

I’ve never had the flu or a flu shot. Why start now?

Getting vaccinated against the flu not only helps you from getting sick, but also helps those around you who might be more vulnerable to serious flu illness from getting sick. Older adults, people with chronic health conditions (like asthma), and children younger than 6 months of age (who are too young to be vaccinated) are especially at risk. It can also make flu illness milder for you if you do happen to get the flu.

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

Over time, the immune system’s protective ability declines from the previous year’s shot. Even if the strains in the vaccine remain the same, though they often aren’t, your body needs a “reminder” of what it’s looking for in order to protect you against infection.

What makes one year’s vaccine more effective than others?

Because production of flu vaccine must begin before the year’s flu season has begun, the effectiveness of the vaccine can vary based on which strains are actually circulating once the season arrives. The best flu vaccine will have strains closely resembling the ones making people sick during the season–this is called a “good match”. If one or more of the circulating strains differs significantly from those contained in the vaccine, the vaccine’s “effectiveness” is said to be reduced; however, vaccination is still beneficial. Even if the vaccine is not the best match, the antibodies (part of your immune system that helps fight infection) produced by the vaccine could still help defend against different but related strains.

But can’t I get the flu from the flu shot?

No. Neither the injected flu vaccine nor the nasal spray vaccine can cause flu illness, but your doctor may recommend one type of the vaccine over another depending on your individual health needs. For instance, if you have asthma or another chronic respiratory condition you should get the flu vaccine injection and not get the nasal spray. Additionally, if you or any of your household are immunocompromised, the entire household should get the injected vaccine and not the nasal spray.

Is there any reason I should skip the flu shot?

If you are feeling unwell, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. You may need to get the vaccine on another day. If you are allergic to egg, you should talk to your doctor for possible evaluation by an allergist and further investigation to see if the flu vaccine will be safe for you. You should also let your doctor know if you have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (also called GBS). Some people with a history of GBS should not get the flu vaccine. You must get approval from your neurologist to receive the flu vaccine from our office.

What kinds of flu vaccine does your office have?

Our office carries flu vaccine as an injection into muscle only. We do not carry FluMist.

What are some possible side effects from the flu vaccine?

The most common side effects from the injected flu vaccine are:
• Soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection
• Low grade fever
• Aches
These symptoms usually resolve within a few days, though rarely a severe reaction may occur.

So if I get the shot, then I don’t have to worry about getting the flu, right?

Not exactly. The vaccine protects against the most common strains of the virus, but if you come into contact with an uncommon strain you could still get the flu illness. It’s best to stay away from those sick with the flu and wash your hands frequently.

I’m on allergy shots. Can I get my flu shot when I come in for that?

You should wait 24 hours between allergy shot injections and any other injection, including flu shots. If you were to have any complications from an injection, we want to be able to identify the source so we can prevent complications in the future.

I’m a patient with a child who is not a patient and needs a flu shot. Can I get theirs when I get mine?

Unfortunately, only established patients can receive the vaccine in our office.

My child has never gotten a flu shot before. Can they get it at your office?

First-timers and some other children between 6 months and 8 years of age need two doses of the vaccine in order for it to be effective. We will only give the flu vaccine to children who have successfully received 2 doses in a single year at an earlier point in their life. We do not give boosters unless it is a young child who is highly egg allergic and is getting the vaccine for the first time. If your child needs two doses of the vaccine, begin the process early. After the first dose is given, the second dose cannot be given until after at least 28 days have passed. Protection then does not begin for an additional 14 days.

The injected flu vaccine is available in our office by appointment only. We do not carry FluMist as it is not recommended for asthma patients. Call (205) 943-1197 and our front office staff will be happy to assist you.

Please leave us your thoughts