Flu Vaccine-Is it too late?

Flu Vaccine-Is it too late?

When is it too late to get the flu vaccine?

Following the flu shot, the body takes two weeks to develop full protection.  While it is recommended to get the flu shot by the end of October, getting vaccinated later is still better than nothing at all! If the flu season is still active (flu viruses circulating), it is not to late to get your flu shot. Each flu season is different, but the average flu season peaks between December and February, with flu activity possibly lasting much longer (influenza virus can be circulating as late as May).

What is Influenza?

Influenza, or “the flu”, is a very contagious viral illness that targets the nose, throat, and lungs. Its severity can range from mild to severe, even leading to death. Symptoms of influenza include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, muscle/body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, or diarrhea. Not all patients with influenza will have a fever. The flu spreads when respiratory droplets (from coughing, sneezing, or talking) of someone with the flu lands in the nose or mouth of those nearby. It can also be spread by touching a surface with flu viruses on it then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. People with the flu are most contagious for the first 3-4 days of their illness but may be contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to 7 days after they appear.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Most people 6 months and older should receive the flu shot. The first time the flu shot is given under age 10, two doses are required (at least four weeks apart). To be protected to your fullest, the flu shot is needed every year, as immunity weakens over time. Even if you have been sick with the flu this season, it is still recommended that you receive the flu vaccine. Because there are multiple variants of the flu, receiving the flu vaccine can protect against additional strains.

Risks associated with the flu vaccine:

The flu shot does not cause the flu. It can, however, cause minor symptoms indicating a proper immune response. The injected flu vaccine may cause soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling at the site of the injection. A low-grade fever, headache, or muscle aches may also occur. The nasal spray flu vaccine may cause runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, fever, sore throat, or cough. More serious allergic reactions rarely occur.

Benefits of the flu vaccine:

  • Less likely to get sick from the flu
  • Decreases length and severity of illness in those who get the flu
  • Reduced risk of hospitalization associated with influenza
  • Prevents health complications in patients with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes
  • Decreases respiratory infections and hospitalizations in pregnant women
  • Reduces flu related death in children
  • Protects others that may not be able to get the flu vaccine such as infants, toddlers, the elderly, and patients with chronic health conditions

 

For additional information:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/misconceptions.htm

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/late-flu-shot.html

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/nows-still-good-time-get-your-flu-vaccine

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm

 

Kirstie Holtermann, 3rd year medical student

University of Missouri class of 2021

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