Posts for category: Pediatrics
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.
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.