For both parents and children, a trip to the doctor’s for the dreaded flu shot may not be your preferred weekday activity. But as unpleasant as it may seem, the shot is your family’s best protection against the flu.
To help you better understand what you’re administering to your child, below is a break down of the reasons for getting vaccinated, the different types of vaccines that you can choose from, and the side effects that you can expect. Of course, there are instances when you shouldn’t be receiving a shot. Be sure to take special note of these exceptions as you continue reading.
Why is it necessary?
The types of flu vary from year to year, and your immunity naturally declines over time. Though the effectiveness of the flu shot varies form person to person, vaccination reduces your chances of getting the flu by 50% to 60%, according to the Centers of Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
Remember that it’s not just your health on the line. Your loved ones, or anyone who is near you in a day, can be at risk of getting the flu if you contract it yourself. Infants and others with compromised immune systems are especially at risk of catching the flu. Each year, thousands of people die from the flu — with 90% of those deaths occurring in people over 65 years old, as revealed by the Business Insider.
Flu activity also usually peaks around January or February, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so now is the perfect time to begin protecting yourself with a flu shot.
The Anatomy of a Flu Shot
The FDA has approved 3 different ways of producing seasonal vaccines.
The first two methods use egg-grown viruses that are either killed and purified, or weakened to the point that they are unable to reproduce or cause infection. Upon injection, these vaccines stimulate your body’s immune system to build antibodies (proteins that fight off germs) that’ll attack the flu virus if it ever reenters your body.
The recombinant vaccine does not use egg-grown viruses and instead uses natural bacteria or yeast to create a large supply of one purified protein that’ll get your immune system to respond in the same way that it did to the other two vaccines.
Flu shot or nasal spray?
It’s really up to you. Most recent studies have not been able to confirm that one is better than the other (for kids and adults), and both The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC do not have preferences for one or the other.
Some key differences between the two are:
- Anyone over 6 months (including pregnant women) is recommended to get the shot, versus only those ages 2-49 and non-pregnant should get the spray
- Your body produces antibodies in your blood after receiving the shot, versus making antibodies in your nose first (the area where the flu virus normally enters) after the spray
- Side effects of the shot may include: soreness, swelling, and reddening around the area where you received the shot; aches; nausea; and fever (low grade). Side effects of the spray may include: running nose, headaches, sore throat, vomiting, and muscle aches.
Join the Fight Against the Flu
Whether you prefer the shot or the spray, we encourage you to visit your doctor (or nearest pharmacy) to begin your fight against the flu today. Keep yourself and family out of harm’s way and remember that until the flu has stopped circulating, it’s not too late to start fighting.