Posts for tag: Flu
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.
Your child just woke up with a runny nose, an elevated temperature and body aches. Could this just be a passing cold or could it be the flu? It’s important to be able to tell the difference between the two. A common cold is usually mild and will go away on its own without treatment but the flu often requires medical attention to prevent serious complications. While an annual flu shot can protect your child from developing the flu it’s also important to know what to look for and when to visit their pediatrician for care.
Warning Signs of the Flu
Unfortunately the common cold and the influenza viruses have a lot of the same symptoms, which can make it difficult to determine what your child might have. We know that you don’t want to worry unnecessarily and rush them into the office if you don’t need to but it’s also good to know when their condition warrants medical attention.
One difference is that a cold will come on gradually over the course of a couple of days while the flu will often attack suddenly, with symptoms showing up practically overnight. While a fever isn’t a common symptom of a cold a fever is almost always present with the flu, as well as full body achiness or weakness.
Children are also more likely to deal with diarrhea or vomiting with the flu. While symptoms of a cold are usually localized to the head, flu symptoms are more widespread.
You Suspect Your Child has the Flu. Now What?
The first step is to call your pediatrician. While it can take up to a week for your child to feel better after the flu sometimes medical attention is required. It’s especially important that you talk to your doctor if your child has flu-like symptoms and they are under the age of 5, as young children are more likely to deal with health-related complications from the flu.
You’ve talked to your doctor and you now know whether you are supposed to bring them in right away for care or whether you should continue to monitor their condition before bringing them in. At this point the most important thing you can do is help reduce their discomfort and control their symptoms. Make sure they are staying hydrated and getting as much rest as possible.
Avoid giving your child over-the-counter medications, as many of these medications aren’t safe for young children and won’t be effective for treating flu symptoms. If your child has a mild fever ask your pediatrician what over-the-counter medications could help alleviate their fever. Keep in mind: Children should never take aspirin!
The sooner you seek medical attention for the flu the better, as many antiviral medications can prevent the virus from getting worse if it’s administered within the first 48 hours. This medication is often taken for 5 to 7 days and it can help ease symptoms and speed up recovery.
The key is making sure to get your child proper medical care as soon as flu-like symptoms appear. Call your children’s doctor right away.
Cold Vs. Flu
Is it a cold or the flu? When it comes to your child's health, your pediatrician provides great information and guidance on the most common illnesses plaguing families. If you are wondering about the exact nature of your child's illness and how to treat it, learn the differences between a cold and the flu and how to treat and prevent them.
What is a cold?
A cold is an upper respiratory viral infection lasting 5 to 7 days in both adults and children alike. Generally milder in intensity and shorter in duration than influenza, a cold causes:
- Watery eyes
- A runny nose
- Low-grade fever
- High fever
- Body aches
- Extreme tiredness
- Severe headache
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Stay well-hydrated.
- Avoid crowds during peak cold and flu season.
- Keep your child home from daycare and school if he or she is sick.
- Teach your child to cover his or her mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Don't share food or utensils, even with family members.
- Vaccinate against the flu. Ask your pediatrician for your child's "shot."