Dispensing Knowledge

The Flu Blues

Fall is almost upon us which means three things: beautiful leaves, apple cider and the flu vaccine. Many people choose to get the quick injection to protect themselves and those they love from getting this viral infection. In this article, we will discuss some of the most commonly asked questions about the flu the vaccine that helps prevent it.

How is influenza spread? Everyone is at risk of developing influenza, or the flu, as we commonly call it. This viral illness is mainly spread between mid-October until the end of April. It is transmitted from person-to-person when an uninfected person breathes in droplets spread by an infected person when they cough, sneeze or talk. Proper handwashing is important to maintain good hygiene and fend off the flu virus.

What are the symptoms of influenza? Influenza mainly affects the nose, throat and lungs causing symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea. The severity of the illness can range from mild to severe and may cause complications such as pneumonia and in severe cases, death.

Who should have the influenza vaccine? All people over the age of six months who do not have a contraindication to the influenza vaccine should receive it. Pharmacists are now able to administer this vaccine to those aged 5 years and older. For children under nine years who have never received the vaccine before, two doses of the vaccine are required separated by at least four weeks. For children aged 2-17, there is also an nasal vaccine spray that is available free of charge. For those 65 years and older, there is a vaccine that contains an adjuvant, which is a substance that boosts your immune system’s response to the vaccine, to provide better protection. Once the injection is given, protection occurs in about two weeks. To provide the best protection, it’s best to get vaccinated early in the flu season, in mid-late October. Even those with an egg allergy are eligible to get the influenza vaccine after a discussion with their healthcare provider.

How effective is the vaccine? Unfortunately, the influenza virus changes quickly from year to year so a new vaccine is developed each year to match the evolved virus and provide protection. Sometimes, the vaccine’s match is better than others, but even if the match is not exact, it still provides some protection. On average from year to year, the vaccine cuts your risk of developing influenza by about 40 percent.

Does the vaccine cause influenza? No. Both formats of the vaccine—the injectable and the nasal spray—do not cause influenza. The injectable format contains killed influenza virus that triggers your immune system to fight off the virus should be exposed. The nasal spray contains weakened influenza virus that are easily overtaken by your immune system. Although, if you have a weakened immune system, you should not get the nasal spray version of the vaccine.

The best thing you can do to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. If you have more questions about influenza or the vaccine please speak with your pharmacist or healthcare professional.