Why the flu shot cannot give you the flu (and why you should get one now)
By Libby Richards, RN, PhD
Flu vaccination prevents millions of flu-related illnesses and deaths annually, but vaccination rates are low for many reasons.
During the 2018-2019 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 45% of U.S. adults received the flu vaccine. While this is an increase of 8% from 2017-2018, it falls way below the national goal of 70% of American adults receiving a flu shot.
One of the common myths that leads people to avoid the flu shot is that they think the shot will give them the flu. But that is simply not true. The virus in the vaccine is not active, and an inactive virus cannot transmit disease. What is true is that you may feel the effects of your body mounting an immune response, but that does not mean you have the flu.
I am a nursing professor with experience in public health promotion, and I hear this and other myths often. Here are the facts and the explanations behind them.
Each year the flu season is different, and the flu virus also affects people differently. One dangerous complication of the flu is pneumonia, which can result when your body is working hard to fight the flu. This is particularly dangerous in older adults, young children, and those whose immune systems aren’t working well, such as those receiving chemotherapy or transplant recipients.
Historically millions of Americans get the flu each year, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and tens of thousands of people die from flu-related complications. During the 1918 flu pandemic, one-third of the world’s population, or about 500 million people, were infected with the flu. Since that time, vaccine science has dramatically changed the impact of infectious diseases.
The cornerstone of flu prevention is vaccination. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older who does not have contraindications to the vaccine, receive the flu shot.
That said, some people may feel sick after they receive the flu shot which can lead to thinking they got sick from the shot.
However, feeling under the weather after a flu shot is actually a positive. It can be a sign that your body’s immune response is working. What happens is this: When you receive the flu shot, your body recognizes the inactive flu virus as a foreign invader. This is not dangerous; it causes your immune system to develop antibodies to attack the flu virus when exposed in the future. This natural immune response may cause some people to develop a low-grade fever, headache or overall muscle aches. These side effects can be mistaken for the flu but in reality are likely the body’s normal response to vaccination.
Also, people often confuse being sick with a bad cold or stomach flu with having influenza. Influenza symptoms can include a fever, chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue and headaches. Cold symptoms can be similar to the flu but are typically milder. The stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, can be caused by several different bacteria or viruses. Symptoms of gastroenteritis involve nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Pre-shot exposures and mismatches
Some people do get the flu after they have received a flu shot, but that is not from the shot. It can happen for a couple of reasons.
First, they could have been exposed to the flu before they had the shot. It can take up to two weeks after receiving the flu shot to develop full immunity. Therefore, if you do get the flu within this period, it is likely that you were exposed to the flu either prior to being vaccinated or before your full immunity developed.
Second, depending on the strain of the flu virus that you are exposed to, you could still get the flu even if you received the vaccine. Every year, the flu vaccine is created to best match the strain of the flu virus circulating. Therefore, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on the similarity between the virus circulating in the community and the killed viruses used to make the vaccine.
If there is a close match between the two, then the effectiveness of the flu vaccine will be high. However, if there is not a close match, vaccine effectiveness could be reduced. Still, it is imperative to note that even when there is not a close match between the circulating virus and the virus used to make the vaccine, the vaccine will still lessen the severity of flu symptoms and also help prevent flu-related complications.
Bottom line: You cannot get influenza from getting the flu vaccine. As someone who has treated many people who do get the flu, I strongly urge you to get the shot.
Libby Richards is an associate professor of nursing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
By Dr. Christine White, MD. FAAP
Breast feeding is one of the most difficult things about having a new baby. Don’t expect it to work easily or well for the first 7 to 10 days. EXPECT to be frustrated for a few days, but know that if you stick with it, 90 percent of mothers will be successful by 10 days.
In order for your body to make milk, your brain must get the signal that it needs to get that going. In order for that to happen you have to either pump for 10 minutes every 3 hours or breastfeed for 10 minutes per side every 2 to 3 hours. THIS NEEDS TO START FROM AROUND 3 HOURS OLD. The first feeding and skin-to -skin time can be just that. Whatever happens, happens. But the next feeding needs to be a good one – or you need to pump. You cannot wait until your baby is 24 hours old, or until you get home to use your pump. You must start it in the first 5 to 6 hours of life so you can make a good amount of milk and make it more quickly. So, ask your nurse for a pump after you have completed your skin-to-skin time – and USE it. Give what you pump to the baby, using a syringe.
It is important that the baby be fed at least every 3 hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next feeding. So, if you feed the baby starting at 8 a.m. the next feeding should start by 11 a.m. Even if you didn’t finish the feeding until 8:35 a.m. you must start again by 11 a.m. Feed (at least) every 3 hours from birth.
Sometimes babies will feed every 1 to 2 hours. This is fine as long as it doesn’t become a habit. Don’t let them think they have a 24-hour buffet to snack on. Try to get them to eat on one side for 10 to 15 minutes. Then switch to the other breast for 10 to 15 minutes. There is no benefit to feeding for more than 20 minutes per breast. The breast is drained in that time and then they are just using you as a pacifier.
USE YOUR NURSES TO HELP YOU WITH BREASTFEEDING. Every nurse on mother-baby has had at least 20 hours of breast-feeding training. You will see your nurse often. Ask her to help you get the baby latched, see if it’s a good latch, and help with positioning. The lactation consultants will help you too, but you will likely only see them once and it may not be until the day after you deliver. Use your nurses!
Sometimes breastfeeding isn’t going to happen – the mechanics don’t work, the mom hates it, the mom’s nipples get cracked/bleed and she must pump, or the baby will NOT stay awake. THIS IS OK. If you still want to give your baby breast milk just pump and feed with a bottle.
Sometimes families choose to use formula instead of breast milk. THIS IS OK. Some of the docs at JoCo Peds never got a drop of breast milk and most people would say we turned out ok. Formula is a wonderful food for babies. I have no concerns about babies who are fed formula. They will grow up healthy and happy and strong. No mom should EVER feel bad if her baby is fed formula. All you need to do is feed your baby and help him or her to grow.
Often in the first week of life a baby will need to be supplemented with formula until mom’s milk is in or the mechanics of breastfeeding are mastered. What we usually recommend is you breast feed every 2 to 3 hours first and then give 10 to 30 ml of supplement (depending on how old the baby is) by syringe or cup or upright bottle feeding. Just be sure to breast feed first so the baby practices that each time.
Kids may complain about being restrained in the car, but car seats and booster seats save lives. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that using a car or booster seat in a passenger car reduces the risk of fatal injury 71 percent in children younger than 1 and 54 percent in toddlers ages 1 to 4. The statistics are just as impressive for older kids.
What type of seat should I use for my child?
Infants and toddlers should ride in rear-facing seats until they reach the highest weight or height recommended by the manufacturer. In the past, children were routinely removed from rear-facing seats when they were 2, even if they didn't meet height or weight limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently changed their guidelines and now recommend that kids remain in the seats as long as possible.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers who have reached the maximum height or weight limits for rear-facing seats should use forward-facing car seats. Again, the seats should be used until the child reaches the maximum height and weight recommendations.
Once kids are too tall or heavy for car seats, they will transition to booster seats. Booster seats should be used until children are 4'9" tall and 8 to 12 years old. Older children can begin using seat belts at that point but should sit in the back seat when possible, particularly if they're younger than 13.
How can I tell if the car seat is installed correctly?
Both car and booster seats should be securely fashioned with a latch system or seat belt. If the seat moves back and forth freely, it's not installed correctly. Properly installed seats should move no more than an inch in any direction.
My child's legs seem too long for the car seat. What should I do?
You may wonder if your child should move up to the next seat or a booster seat if your child's feet touch the back of car seat. As long as your child is shorter than the maximum height for the seat, he or she should remain in the current seat.
Should my child use a secondhand car seat?
Passing a seat down to your next child can be a good idea if your children are only a few years apart in age. Before you reuse a seat for a younger child, make sure that it hasn't expired or been recalled since you bought it. Throw away car and booster seats after accidents, even minor ones. The seat may look perfectly fine but may be damaged internally.
Buying secondhand car seats online or at yard sales should be avoided. You won't necessarily know if the seat has been in an accident or if it has defective latches or restraints.
Using car seats consistently, whether you're going to the grocery store or taking a cross-country trip, can help your child avoid serious injuries due to traffic accidents. Talk to your child's pediatrician if you have questions about the seats.
Has your child been uncharacteristically fatigued as of late? Whereas before they were running and jumping around, now they seem more sluggish and uninterested. Perhaps this weary state has also been accompanied by a recurrent sore throat and headaches? If so, your child may be afflicted by Mononucleosis—a condition better known as Mono.
Although Mono isn’t generally a serious illness, it can both be extraordinarily uncomfortable and contagious. Read on to learn about this condition’s potential symptoms and treatment options, and make sure to call your local pediatrician if you are at all concerned that your child has developed Mono.
Mono: Basic Background and Symptoms
Generally caused by exposure to the Epstein-Barr Virus, Mono is an infectious illness often spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, especially saliva—a characteristic that has led to its nickname, “the kissing disease.”
As mentioned above, fatigue is the most common symptom of Mono. However, there are a few additional symptoms that can point to its presence, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Recurring headaches
- Sore throat, accompanied by white patches in the neck
- Light sensitivity
If your child has exhibited these signs, make an appointment with your pediatrician so that you can obtain a proper diagnosis.
Due to Mono being caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot treat the condition. Instead, doctors recommend the following measures:
- Lots and lots of rest, particularly bed rest during the condition’s beginning stages
- Refraining from any strenuous activity (especially sports, but also school if the fatigue is too much to handle)
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers to help relieve any throat or fever discomfort
- Taking multi-vitamins to strengthen the immune system
Concerned? Give Us a Call
Mono can be an extremely uncomfortable experience, and the sooner you pinpoint your child’s condition, the sooner they can find relief. If you are worried that your little one has developed Mono, give your local pediatrician a call today.
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