patient receiving flu shot

Flu season has arrived and your local drugstore has probably already begun its annual flu shot campaign. Soon you won't be able to turn the corner without someone asking, "Did you get your flu shot yet?"

Should you get one?

Vaccine Manufacturing
More than 130 centers located in 101 countries gather data on the flu every year. There is always some form of influenza circulating throughout the world and these centers monitor which strains of flu the current virus contains. Armed with this data, each country "predicts" how the strain will change by the time it reaches their country and then sets to work creating the vaccine. Unfortunately, because the vaccine takes six months to grow, no one knows if the current vaccine will provide the necessary protection until the flu virus hits, long after the vaccine has been manufactured.

Flu Shot Facts
Success of the vaccine relies on a good sampling of the current strain. Without a good sample, quantities of the vaccine will be limited. In such cases, only infants, the elderly, healthcare workers, and high-risk individuals will be permitted to receive the vaccine. Consider the following if you're vacillating over whether or not to get your flu shot every year:

  • More than 200,000 people in the United States develop the flu every year and still more than 35,000 people die from flu-related illnesses.
  • When the flu vaccine is manufactured for the year, several strains of the virus are included in the vaccine, so you'll always be protected from part of the strain. Even with a little protection, you won't get as sick as you could if you hadn't gotten a flu shot.
  • Some people report feeling a little queasy and run down after receiving the vaccine--as if they have a touch of the flu. As with any vaccine, slight elevations in temperature and soreness at the injection site are possible.
  • If you don't like needles, you can ask for an inhaled form. The flu shot contains a dead form of the virus, while the inhaled form contains the live virus. There's no difference in the amount of protection you receive, just the method in which it's administered.
  • If you're allergic to eggs, you shouldn't get the vaccine. Have a discussion with your doctor as to what steps you can take to avoid the flu. In some cases, they may recommend getting the pneumonia vaccine to prevent respiratory illness.
  • Cost needn't be a factor in your decision to receive a flu shot. Check with your local health department for locations of flu clinics offering free shots.
  • If you're in your 20s to 50s and are in good health, your chances of getting the flu are fairly slim. People who eat right, have a healthy immune system, and wash their hands often probably won't get the flu. These practices are key to avoiding that two week stint of wanting only to stay on your couch.

For updated information on the current flu season, visit the CDC's FluView website. This website will track the virus as it drifts across the United States.