Influenza Vaccine (aka “The Flu”) Q&A

In CategoryHealth News, Pharmacy
ByBriana

What is Influenza?

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness which presents as a range of symptoms from mild to severe. One common misconception of influenza is that it is synonymous with the stomach flu. Influenza and the stomach flu are two separate, unrelated conditions, and the yearly influenza vaccine does not prevent the stomach flu. Today’s blog will focus on influenza.

How can I contract Influenza?

Influenza is transmitted through droplets of moisture such as from sneezing or coughing. People can contract influenza at any time throughout the year, but it usually occurs between the months of October and May, with the largest number of infections occurring in January and February.

What are the symptoms of Influenza?

The condition can present as a variety of symptoms and can be easily confused with other health conditions. Some of these symptoms include muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, headache, fever/chills, cough or runny/stuffy nose. Most people recover within a week of becoming ill.

Types of Influenza Vaccines

  • Influenza Shot: this is the inactivated vaccine and is what most people will receive when they become vaccinated.
  • Influenza Spray: this is the weak, active form of the virus that is administered via a nasal spray.
  • High-Dose Vaccine: this is four times the dose of the normal vaccine and is specifically for people age 65 and older, but has an increased incidence of side
    effects.

Who should get the Influenza Vaccine?

The CDC recommends that all people older than 6 months of age should receive the vaccine on a yearly basis. While young children and people over the age of 65 have the highest rate of infection, pregnant women or people with certain health conditions such as a weakened immune system, or lung, kidney, or heart disease can become very sick if they contract the virus.

Why should I get the Influenza Vaccine every year?

Viruses are continuously changing, and as they change, they are classified as different strains. Before the vaccines are made every year, scientists try to match the vaccine to the top three strains they believe will circulate for a given year. Receiving a flu vaccine every year ensures optimal protection from the most recent influenza strains.

When should I get the Influenza Vaccine?

You should receive the influenza vaccine as early as it is available, but it is never too late to receive it. The earlier you receive it, the sooner you are protected from the virus. Once you have been immunized, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to begin working, and the protection lasts for one year or longer for the included strains.

Who should NOT get the Influenza Vaccine?

  • People who are severely allergic to eggs
  • People who have had a major allergic reaction to a previous influenza vaccine
  • People who have had Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome (GBS)
  • People who are moderately to severely ill (these people should wait until they are feeling better)

What risks are associated with the Influenza Vaccine?

There are minimal risks associated with the influenza vaccine. The most common complaint is an injection site reaction. This may include pain, soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was administered. Additionally, some people may notice aches, headache or fatigue after receiving the vaccine. These symptoms usually occur soon after receiving the vaccine and subside within 1 to 2 days.

Posting by Samantha Keca, PharmD Candidate, UIC-Chicago