It’s that time of year again! As the weather gets colder, cold and flu season begins. You’ve probably already started hearing things about the flu vaccine and may be thinking about them for your family. Learn more about the flu vaccine and how it works so you can feel confident getting yours this year.
What is the Flu Vaccine?
Influenza can be serious and lead to hospitalization especially in vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions and a compromised immune system. Although each year flu seasons vary, the flu vaccine is still the best way to protect yourself and your community against the flu.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine ever year with rare exceptions. While the most common form of vaccination is the flu shot and that is the type we will be focusing on here, there are different vaccination types that are recommended for various populations. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have and what they recommend for you and your family.
How a flu vaccine works
A flu vaccine triggers your body to create antibodies against the flu. Over the two weeks following your vaccination, your immune system responds and develops these antibodies that will provide protection should you be exposed to the flu. Because it takes two weeks to protect you, it’s important to get the vaccine as early in the season as you can before you can be expose.
Although it cannot give you the flu, the flu vaccine does trigger an immune response that can result in mild side effects. These may include soreness at the injection site, headache, fever, muscle aches, nausea, or fatigue which will pass on their own in a day or two.
It is important to get the flu shot each year for a couple reasons. First, immune protection from vaccination declines over time so annual vaccination helps keep up this protection. Second, flu viruses are constantly changing. Each year, a vaccine is developed to protect against the strains of influenza research indicates will be most common that season.
Since the flu viruses are constantly changing, it is possible to get the vaccine and still get the flu. However, studies have shown that the flu vaccine may reduce the severity of the illness in those who were vaccinated but still got sick.
If you have questions or concerns about the flu vaccine, it’s always best to have an open, honest conversation with your primary care provider. They will be the best person to make recommendations based on your specific health history and situation. You can also find more information about the flu and the flu vaccine at cdc.gov/flu.
Dr. Kaitlin Schwerer is a physician with Fisher-Titus Family Medcine-Milan. Dr. Schwerer earned her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. She currently has same-day and next-day appointments available. Call 419-660-2900 to schedule.