November marks the beginning of flu season 2018-2019. Are you proactively thinking about what to do in case someone in your family is hit with the flu? There’s more you can do to prepare for the flu season than simply sitting and waiting for the flu to hit. Be prepared with Walmart.ca’s guide to flu season 2018-2019. You’ll find it brimming with expert tips and advice.
Dr. Allison McGeer is a Microbiologist, Infectious Disease Consultant, and the Director of Infection Control and the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Research Program at the Sinai Health System in Toronto, Canada, and a Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She has been a member of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and the Ontario Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee.
Table of Contents:
- Getting the flu shot is your first step in preparing for flu season
- How do vaccines work?
- Which flu shot is right for you?
- Can you get sick after a flu shot?
- Where can you get the flu shot?
Getting the flu shot is your first step in preparing for flu season
When it comes to preparing for flu season, flu vaccination should rank first, second, third, fourth and fifth on your list,” says Dr. Allison McGeer, “It’s the only thing we have good evidence for.”
Influenza vaccination is recommended for all individuals 6 months old and older (though the type of vaccination can depend on age and other considerations specific to a person’s circumstances). According to the Government of Canada, it is particularly important for those at risk of influenza-related complications or hospitalization, such as pregnant women, and people capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk to be vaccinated for the flu.
“The risks involved with getting influenza, and how serious [your flu] is, depends on who you are,” says Dr. McGeer. “If you’re over 65, there’s a 1/100 chance you’ll end up in the hospital in any given year. If you’re 35 and healthy, there’s a 1/100,000 chance you will be hospitalized in any given year,” Dr. McGeer continues. “The reason to get vaccinated if you’re 35 is 1) for self-protection—so you don’t feel miserable, which can happen for several days, and 2) so as to not give it to other people and to protect other people around you”
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines work by introducing a safe version of a bacteria or virus to the body so that the immune system is stimulated to create the antibodies it needs to protect itself against a more serious threat.
“A vaccine trains the immune system to recognize a particular bacteria or virus and be prepared to get rid of it,” informs Dr. McGeer. “It’s training the immune system to fight off an invader. It gives the immune system a chance to practise so that when it meets the real thing, it will work well.”
Which flu shot is right for you?
The active virus vaccine comes as a nasal spray and is meant for children who are afraid of needles. Most adults will get the inactivated vaccine, which is given by injection with a needle.
“The reason for the nasal spray is to give kids a vaccine without needles. But giving an inactivated vaccine any other way than needles just doesn’t work,” says Dr. McGeer. “The live vaccine creates an actual infection, but parents don’t have to worry as the strains are attenuated, they’re not as virulent, and won’t cause serious illness; kids might just get a stuffy nose,” Dr. McGeer continues. “The virus is cold-adapted; it won’t grow at higher temperatures, so once it gets inside of the body, it just dies.”
It should be noted that there are two different vaccines available to older adults (age 65+). One that is a high dose, and one that is adjuvant. Both of these flu vaccines offer better protection for this high-risk group than the regular vaccine. To learn more about the vaccines available to older adults, check out Walmart’s article Flu Shot 2018: What You Should Know.
Can you get sick after a flu shot?
Concerned about the side effects of the flu vaccine? Dr. McGeer points out that the risks associated with the flu vaccine are rare. Flu shot side effects may include mild soreness on the site of vaccination, and perhaps some fever and achiness in children.
“Like other vaccines, you can get a sore arm; it usually lasts a day and is generally mild,” informs Dr. McGeer. “Kids can get a fever and maybe some achiness. Usually, it’s not severe, and can last a day or so. It’s the same with any other vaccine.”
If you’re concerned about soreness after the flu shot, Dr. McGeer says that taking an over-the-counter analgesic, such as Tylenol, after the vaccine can help with pain management. The same can be done with children and babies to ease soreness and any accompanying fever. Be sure to read the label to ensure you select the one that is right for you and your family and use according to directions.
As for risks from flu shot 2018, while people sometimes experience symptoms after getting their flu shot, Dr. McGeer explains that this has more to do with the many respiratory viruses going around this time of year. “The problem is we give the flu shot in October and November, and there’s a lot of respiratory viruses around that time of year,” informs Dr. McGeer. She adds that there’s a 5% chance you may get a respiratory virus during that time.
It’s important to also note, she says, that you have to wait a couple of weeks for the vaccine to take full effect. “It usually has some effect after seven days and a little bit of benefit until then, but you have to wait for the two-week period to pass to be fully protected,” says Dr. McGeer.
Where can you get the flu shot?
According to Dr. McGeer, it makes no difference where you get the flu shot. “It’s all the same flu shot,” she says, noting you only need to consult a doctor if you’ve had a bad reaction in the past to any vaccine.