Join the fight against the flu

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With few exceptions, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association and other organizations recommend all individuals 6 months and older to get a flu shot every year. Here's why: 

Flu shots have been shown to reduce the likelihood of getting sick with the flu by as much as 40% to 60%. Flu vaccines also reduce the risk of severe symptoms, hospitalization or death if a person becomes infected with the influenza virus. 

To help raise awareness about the flu shot and the benefits of getting vaccinated, SIU Medicine is celebrating National Influenza Vaccination Week December 6 - 12. Join us by learning more about this important vaccine. 

When should I get my flu shot? 

The CDC encourages people to get their annual flu shot by the end of October. But it's not too late to get your flu shot even later in the fall or winter. 

Is there anyone who shouldn't get a flu shot?

The majority of us should get the flu shot. Decades of research show that it's safe and effective for most people, including pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions (diabetes, asthma or heart disease) who are at higher risk of serious influenza complications.

There are some people who shouldn't get the flu shot, including: 

  • Children younger than 6 months of age
  • People with life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in a flu vaccine
  • People who have had a severe allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past 
  • People with prior diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome within 6 weeks of receipt of influenza vaccine. 

You can always discuss your questions about flu vaccines with your doctor to help you make informed medical decisions. 

What types of flu shots are available?

For the 2021-22 flu season, there are three flu shots options. The inactivated influenza vaccine and the recombinant influenza vaccine are both given as injections. The live attenuated influenza vaccine is given as a nasal spray. 

Your doctor can help you figure out which type of flu shot is the best for you. 

Are there any risks to getting the flu shot? 

As with any type of medication or supplement, the flu shot may cause side effects or adverse reactions. If someone does experience side effects, they might notice:

  • Discomfort, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Some people feel lightheaded or even faint after getting vaccines, including the flu vaccine. 

Very rare cases of life-threatening adverse reactions, including anaphylactic shock (a severe allergic reaction), have been reported in people who get flu shots. While serious, these are extremely unlikely. In fact, the risk of severe complications from the flu is greater, particularly if you're unvaccinated. 

Why do some people get the flu even after getting the flu shot? 

Sometimes, people can get sick with the flu even after they've received a flu vaccine. There are several possible reasons for this: 

  • The flu shot triggers your body to make special immune proteins called antibodies that help your body fight off the flu virus, and this process can take about two weeks. A person might be exposed to a flu virus before the vaccine fully "kicks in" and is able to offer optimal protection.
  • A person might not have a strong immune response to the vaccine due to a variety of reasons, including overall health and age.
  • Many types of flu viruses circulate in the community, and the vaccines are made to protect against the most common ones, based on best available research. A person might be exposed to a type of flu virus that their flu vaccine doesn't protect against.
  • Remember, not all “common cold” viruses are influenza viruses!

While a flu vaccine might not prevent everyone from getting sick, the good news is that your chances of experiencing severe influenza complications is lowered, thanks to your decision to vaccinate.

Stay informed, stay protected and stay healthy this flu season

It's normal to have questions about the flu shot or any other medical product. If you want to learn more and discover other ways to fight the flu this season, contact SIU Medicine today at 217-545-8000 to schedule an appointment. 

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