At the end of summer a new season begins: the flu season. It’s time to stock up on tissues and go to the nearest pharmacy or doctor’s office for the next flu shot. And this year, the health authorities are placing even more emphasis on getting vaccinated to prevent “twilight” from COVID-19 and influenza. Here’s what you need to know about the flu shot:
1. The flu is a nasty viral disease.
“Influenza” is short for influenza, a disease caused by the influenza virus. The virus affects a person’s lungs, nose, and throat, so symptoms are concentrated in these areas. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain, and fatigue. Not everyone will have all of these symptoms. The flu season usually starts in October, peaks in January or February, and ends in May.
2. “Stomach flu”
; is not real.
There is no such thing as “stomach flu”. The nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea commonly known as “stomach flu” can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasite, but not the influenza virus. Occasionally, the flu virus can cause nausea or vomiting, but this is far more common in children than adults. This may go without saying, but if you’ve vomited or have had diarrhea for a few days, it’s time to see a doctor.
3. There are many different strains of flu.
The flu virus comes in numerous strains or types. The strain called H1N1 started in pigs, then spread to humans and is now a common type of seasonal flu. Avian flu, also known as H5N1 or H7N9, has made many birds sick, but rarely spreads to humans unless they have handled infected birds.
4. A flu shot contains a tiny particle of the dead virus.
Each shot contains a tiny piece of dead flu virus. The virus is grown in fertilized chicken eggs, then extracted and deactivated with microscopic amounts of formaldehyde. A chemical called octylphenol ethoxylate removes even smaller pieces of the virus, which reduces the risk of side effects. Gelatin holds the virus together and keeps it stable during shipping, and a preservative called thimerosol prevents the vaccine from going bad on the shelf. There is no need to worry about these chemicals. They are present in such small quantities that your body hardly registers them. If you have a life-threatening allergy to gelatin or eggs, speak to your doctor before getting your shot. He or she may recommend a different version. (See also # 9.)
5. You should get a flu shot even if you think you will never get the flu.
Past performance is not an indication of future results, my friend. Just because you’ve never had it before doesn’t mean you are invincible. Even if you never have symptoms in your life, you could be carrying the virus around exposing everyone else to the virus. And not every immune system is as robust and macho as yours. Think of babies, people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and the elderly. Do you really want to be the one to make her sick?
6. Yes, you must have a flu shot every year.
There are many, many types of flu. Every year, researchers and public health officials determine which strains pose a threat and formulate a vaccine that protects against those strains. To stay protected from the latest flu risks, you need to keep your recordings up to date.
7. This year’s flu vaccinations protect against three or four strains.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three or four types of influenza virus are often circulating among people today: influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. The 2020-2021 flu shot has been updated to protect against three strains of the virus: A / Guangdong-Maonan / SWL1536 / 2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus, A / Hong Kong / 2671/2019 (H3N2) -like virus, and B. / Washington / 02/2019 (B / Victoria line) -like virus.
Quadrivalent flu vaccines, designed to protect against four types of flu, protect against an additional B virus called B / Phuket / 3073/2013-like virus (Yamagata line).
8. The flu shot can’t give you the flu.
Your flu vaccination will be done either with a dead (deactivated) flu virus or, in the case of the recombinant flu vaccine, without an actual virus. You may experience some side effects after the shot, but these are usually limited to pain or swelling at the injection site. In rare cases, you may have a mild fever or muscle pain. However, these are side effects and not the flu.
9. You can get the flu shot if you are allergic to eggs.
For a while, doctors warned people with egg allergies to stay away from the flu vaccine, but this seems to have been unnecessary. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recently stated that “no special precautions are required for giving an influenza vaccine to egg allergic patients, no matter how severe the egg allergy is.” If you are really concerned about an allergic reaction, speak to your doctor. He or she may be able to get you an egg-free flu shot.
10. If you get the flu, antibiotics won’t help.
The flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria. Antibiotics only respond to bacteria. Antibiotics won’t do anything against the flu virus, but they will mess up your body’s bacterial ecosystem and speed up the growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.