7 things you need to know about the influenza vaccine

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Are you contemplating whether you need to take a flu shot to protect yourself from influenza this season? Then read this.

Influenza is a viral infection which could lead to high fever, muscle and joint pains, cramps in legs, dry and persistent cough, fatigue and weakness among others. Unlike the common flu which is characterised by fever, cold and cough, influenza is caused due to a more potent virus which can lead to deadly consequences. Yes, an influenza infection with high fever, pain and fatigue can make one hospitalised and even lead to worse outcomes. This is why healthcare experts recommend getting a flu shot or influenza vaccine annually. Remember the bugs keep changing every season and so you need to take the shot every year to safeguard yourself from an influenza infection. An influenza vaccine is created keeping in mind the strains of the virus that could be the highest or at its peak during a particular season. Here are few things you need to know about the influenza vaccine.

What is an influenza vaccine?

An influenza vaccine or flu shot is an injectable vaccine that is given on the arm to protect from three or four strains of influenza virus depending on which stains will be the highest during that season.

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How does an influenza vaccine work?

Once the vaccine shot is taken it develops antibodies in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. The seasonal flu shot is available in three variants trivalent and quadrivalent. The trivalent vaccine protects against three flu viruses influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B virus. The quadrivalent vaccine protects from the above three stains and also an additional B virus.

When should one take the flu vaccine?

Your doctor will be the right person to help you and guide you to know when you should get a flu shot which is due. The vaccination takes around 10 to 15 days to show its effect. So as a precaution it should be taken before a flu season starts. In India, the season peaks during October and November and can lasts till February or March.

Who should take the flu vaccine?

A flu vaccination is recommended for young children under 5 years of age and especially those under 2 years. It is also crucial for adults over the age of 65 to take the shot. As these two groups have their immunities suppressed. It might also be recommended for pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum. People with a weak immune system and chronic illnesses like asthma, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes would also need the shot. People who are very obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher and have low immunity might also be advised to take the shot.

Who should avoid taking the flu vaccine?

The vaccine is not recommended for children younger than six months should not get the flu vaccine. Your doctor might ask you to avoid the shot if you have a life-threatening allergic reaction to a dose of the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine (like eggs or gelatin) or have Guillain-Barr Syndrome (an immune system disorder).

Are there any side-effects of influenza vaccine?

Some of the common side-effects of influenza vaccine are soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given. It can also lead to low-grade fever, joint and muscular pains, toughness and itching at the site of the injection. These side-effects usually last one to two days and go away.

Is flu shot absolutely necessary?

The flu shot might be necessary for kids under 5 years and adults over 65 years of age however if you are a healthy individual and don t fall under these age brackets you can give the shot a miss. Many healthy individuals who get an influenza infection can feel weak and fatigued as long as the infection lasts. It would usually settle on its within a week or two. But if it doesn t it could lead to complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups, heart problems, ear infections among others.

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