What is a flu vaccination?
The flu (also known as the common flu or seasonal flu) is a viral respiratory infection that develops primarily in the lungs and is spread from person to person in secretions of the nose and lungs, for example, when sneezing. Medically, it is referred to as influenza and tends to spread through the community during the winter months.
The flu is a serious illness and can easily spread to others. While the symptoms of other viral respiratory infections are usually mild, enabling most people to continue working or going to school while ill, flu symptoms can be severe and prolonged. The flu can lead to the rapid worsening of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, lung and heart disease. Also, complications such as pneumonia from the virus itself or from bacterial "super-infections" can be life threatening. The flu can be fatal especially for the elderly, young children, and those with certain medical conditions.
Vaccination against the flu
There are two types of seasonal flu vaccines: the injectable vaccine (with an inactivated or 'dead' virus) and nasal spray vaccine (containing a live, but weakened, viral strain).
The flu vaccination is generally effective against the influenza virus within two weeks of administration. However, the vaccine is only effective against the strains of the virus that match the vaccine, and these strains vary from flu season to flu season each year. This is the reason revaccination is required annually. Flu vaccinations do not protect against infection caused by microbes other than the influenza virus.
Flu season typically begins in October and can last as late as May. Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September, but getting vaccinated in December, or even later, can still help protect against contracting the flu virus.
Flu vaccination side effects
Side effects of the injected seasonal flu vaccination are usually mild and include soreness at the site of the injection, muscle aches, headache, fever, itching, cough, and fatigue. Very rarely, some serious allergic reactions have been reported.
The nasal-spray flu vaccine is directed against the same strains of virus as the flu shot but differs in that it contains weakened live influenza viruses instead of killed viruses, and is administered by nasal spray instead of injection.
People at risk for serious complications from the flu should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine; these include:
- Children younger than 5 years of age who have recurrent wheezing
- Children less than 2 years of age
- People with chronic health problems, including heart and lung disease
- Pregnant women
- People with suppressed immune function and those who care for or come into contact with those with a suppressed immune system
- Adults 50 years of age and older
- Children or adolescents receiving aspirin therapy
Mild side effects can occur from the nasal-spray vaccine, including runny nose, headache, sore throat, fatigue, and cough. Children who receive the nasal flu vaccine may also develop mild fever, muscle aches, and abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. Severe allergic reactions are very rare.
Pediatric flu vaccinations
The flu can be more dangerous than the common cold for young children. Children at risk for flu complications include those younger than 5 years old and children with chronic health problems such as asthma, kidney disease, decreased immune system, or diabetes. The CDC recommends that all children 6 months and older get a flu vaccination.
Flu vaccinations for pregnant women
Women who are pregnant during the flu season are considered high risk for complications from influenza and should get the annual seasonal flu vaccine. Concentra provides inactivated seasonal flu vaccinations for pregnant women.
How Concentra can help
Vaccination is the primary method for preventing flu and its severe complications. Concentra offers seasonal flu vaccines, with no appointment necessary.
The current seasonal flu vaccination is generally safe and is the most effective way to prevent flu-related respiratory illness, physician visits related to the flu, hospitalization, and even death.