The arrival of the flu season always raises questions. You may be wondering: Do I really need a flu shot? When should I receive it? Will it make me sick?
Keep COVID-19 in mind and you may have even more things to consider. Is it safe to get a flu shot and a COVID-19 shot or booster at the same time? Influenza cases have been so low during the pandemic, is it really worth worrying about influenza on top of everything else?
To help clear up some of the confusion, it can be helpful to hear from a doctor who speaks candidly. Purvi S. Parikh, MD, an allergy and immunology specialist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, shares his insights.
Everyday Health: Why Get a Flu Shot?
Dr Purvi Parikh: It is very important to get vaccinated against the flu because each year the flu virus causes many deaths, many hospitalizations and many long-term complications, especially in people who are elderly or who are immunocompromised or who may have lung-respiratory diseases.
However, even if you are young and healthy, even if you get a milder form of the flu, you are at risk of passing it on to a loved one, who could have a more serious complication.
Children are also at risk, especially since their immune systems are still developing. And we see pediatric deaths from the flu every year.
EH: Who should get a flu shot and who shouldn’t?
PAGES: Anyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot. Whether or not you have a serious chronic condition that puts you at higher risk for serious complications from the flu, it’s a good idea to protect yourself and others. If you get the flu, you risk passing it on to someone much more vulnerable than you.
Those who should not get a flu shot include those who have had a previous allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or may be allergic to one of the components of the flu vaccine. Or if you have had a rare neurological complication from the flu shot called Guillain-Barré.
But it’s always best to talk to your doctor about whether or not getting a flu shot is a good idea.
HEY: Some people worry that a flu shot will make them sick.
PAGES: a flu shot can not get sick because the flu vaccine contains an inactivated version of the flu virus that your immune system can recognize and mount its immediate immune response, without actually infecting you with the virus.
You may have some expected side effects of the flu shot, which we see with other vaccines, such as feeling run down. Or you may have a headache for a couple of days or pain at the injection site. However, it is much better than getting the virus itself.
HEY: What is the best month to get a flu shot? And is it too soon or too late?
PAGES: In general, flu season is worst during the fall and winter, so most people will get their flu shot at that time between September, October and November. However, it’s never too early or too late to protect yourself from the flu. The flu virus is here year-round, so even if you catch it a couple of months early, or even catch it during the summer months, it’s vital that you protect yourself.
HEY: You could still get the flu even if you get a flu shot. So why bother?
PAGES: The goal of a flu shot isn’t necessarily to prevent you from getting sick at all, but rather to make sure that if you do get the flu, you won’t get a more severe version of the flu virus or get a shorter, milder course.
And it is to prevent the most serious complications of the flu, such as hospitalizations, deaths, secondary pneumonia. And again, if everyone gets vaccinated against the flu, we can even protect vulnerable members of our community and members of our family who may be elderly or who may have conditions that put them at higher risk for complications from the flu.
HEY: What do people over 65 need to know about the flu vaccine?
PAGES: People over the age of 65 may not develop as strong an immune response as younger people. Also, their immune responses sometimes wear off a little earlier than those of people younger than 65. For that reason, we have a highly potent flu vaccine that is also available every year.
Therefore, these people should check with their doctor if the high-potency vaccine is appropriate.
#questions #flu #shot #answered #expert