Influenza and Flu Shots


If you have ever had the official flu or influenza virus, you know you have it because it hits you like a freight train!  Influenzainvolves a full-force high fever, uncomfortable body-muscle aches, an intense headache,a sorethroat, and a nagging cough, which usually leaves one bedridden and practically useless for several days. Because this virus is so severe and potentially deadly, it is vital to get the flu shot every season. If you have never had the flu or youhave not had it in a long time, you may wonder whether or not you really need a flu shot. Here are some reasons why you and your family should seriously consider regular flu vaccinations.






Why is the Flu Shot is Important?

The possibility of getting the flu is often viewed as a temporary inconvenience rather than a life-threatening virus. This was the case a century ago when there was a devastating flu outbreak back in 1918. This pandemic took the lives of about 50 million people all over the globe. Even though scientific research and study haveprovided great improvements in the prevention of influenza, the flu is still responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths in the United States each year. The vaccine has reduced the number of flu-related illnesses, flu-related hospitalizations, and flu-related deaths, but many Americans still need to take the vaccination more seriously.  While the vaccine can only target a specific strand of flu, it has been proven effective, and even reduces the severity of the other flu strands.A flu shot is often free, has minimal-if-any side-effects, and is a worthwhile precaution when death is a possibility.


How Does the Flu Vaccine Operate?

Vaccines get a healthy immune system’s attention by putting traces of a destroyed or modified pathogen/virus in the bloodstreamto create antibodies to fight against the disease. Vaccines do not cause someone to get the disease or become infected, but rather, they prepare the body to know how to fight and win if the flu virus gets inside. However, one difference between influenza and other diseases is that the flu is constantly changing! As a “Master of Disguise,” it is constantly altering itself as it replicates and infects other people.  For example, if you get the flu and you give it to your family members, each one will get a slightly different version of your original virus.  Since this virus changes and adapts every year, it makes it difficult to avoid getting the flu over the course of one’s lifetime. For this reason, a new flu vaccine is produced every year based on the educated prediction of health experts.


Who Needs to Have the Flu Vaccination?

The flu shot is a great way to protect the healthand well-being of everyone during the colder seasons.Anyone ages six-months or older should receive the flu shot every season. Although the flu shot is not 100 percent effective due tothe actively-changing nature of the virus, it is still a good idea to do what you can to protect yourself and your family from a week of severe illness.

There are certain individuals who are at a higher riskof getting the flu. These individuals include women who are pregnant, small children between ages six months and five years, people who are over 50, individuals with chronic medical conditions, those with a body mass index of 40 and above, and individuals who receive aspirin therapy and are under the age of 18. Anyone in close contact with these individuals such as parents, teachers, healthcare workers, etc. are also at a greater risk of getting influenza.

There are a few exceptions for getting the flu shot. People who have endured a negative reaction to a previous flu shot, those with an egg or mercury allergy, individuals with Guillain-barre syndrome or anyone who has a fever the day of a planned vaccination should not get the flu shot.


What are some Potential Side Effects to Receiving the Flu Shot?

There is a common misconception that the flu shot can give you the active flu virus. The flu shot, which is safe for an overwhelming majority of the population, contains a small amount of the inactive virus, which can lead to flu-like symptoms within a 24-hour period of receiving the vaccine. While this is not common, some of the possible side effects that may cause a low-grade fever, tenderness at the injection site, swollen or red injection site, chills or a headache. A mild reaction or side effect to the flu vaccine should only last a day or two while your body adjusts and builds up immunity to the virus strand within the vaccine.

Although no one plans on having the flu, becoming severely ill usually makes one wish they had gotten vaccinated!  Missed events, missed work, incomplete responsibilities, etc. can be a huge setback, so in order to keep up with life and stay healthy, it is best to get vaccinated.Even though there are some people who have opted out of getting vaccinated and have managed to avoid getting the flu, the odds are that a timewill come when they will fall victim to influenza.  It does not discriminate; all who reject the flu vaccination are vulnerable to the virus.  Sincethe flu vaccine is the single best way to stand against influenza, be proactive and protect not only yourself, but those around you by getting the flu shot.

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