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The Flu Shot

Heather Leisy, MD, MBA, MPH

The influenza vaccination, referred to as the flu shot, can save a child’s life along with preventing hospitalizations for all age groups, especially those with chronic disease.

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study looking at flu-related deaths between 2010 and 2014 found these death rates to be halved in children with high risk medical conditions and reduced by two-thirds (65%) in healthy children. For all ages, the flu vaccination prevents approximately 85,000 flu-associated hospitalizations, 2.6 million flu-associated medical visits, and 5.3 million flu illnesses in a year. With these numbers, the evidence is striking in how beneficial getting the flu shot can be for protecting your health and saving healthcare costs.

So, who should obtain the flu shot? Every year, persons starting at 6 months of age should obtain the flu shot unless told otherwise by their provider. This vaccination is especially important in those of higher-risk of flu complications such as: children less than 2 years old, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, people with weakened immunity, people with asthma or chronic lung disease, people with heart or kidney or liver disease, people with a body mass index of 40 or greater, people with diabetes, or others as told by their medical provider. The vaccination ideally should be obtained by the end of October or as early as possible in preparation of the flu season, usually centered around December to March.

So can you get sick from the shot? No, the flu shot, an inactivated (killed) or single gene version, cannot give a person the flu. Within a day of obtaining the vaccine some muscle soreness, in particular the arm of which the shot was given, may occur but can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medication. During the season there are other viruses that may make a person feel sick which we refer to as a ‘cold’ but is not the flu. Some differences in symptoms with the flu can include the abrupt onset of a fever with chills, headache, aches, and chest discomfort. Symptoms like sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat, and a gradual onset of some of the other milder symptoms are more descriptive of a cold. Additionally, the flu shot effectiveness can vary depending upon the accurateness on the prediction for the three to four most common virus strains to affect our population along with the age of the person obtaining the vaccine. In general, obtaining the vaccination is better than going without and potentially getting the flu.

The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated. Other ways that can help in preventing the spreading of the virus is to wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and stay home when sick or avoid close contact with others if ill.

Wishing everyone in the next few months a happy holiday and flu avoidance season!

Dr. Heather Leisy joined HopeHealth in June 2019 as the director of preventive medicine. She provides preventive medical care at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and researches and implements methods to improve patient outcomes.


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