In February 2014, my son’s Kindergarten class was exposed to Influenza. Several kids caught it and thankfully they all made a full recovery. My son had received his Flu shot about 6 weeks prior to the exposure and did not get it. One of the kids who tested positive for the Flu was vaccinated and got a very mild illness and made a quicker recovery than the norm.
The Flu Season usually starts sometime after October and peaks between December and February. This may vary from season to season so the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends that people are vaccinated early, preferably before October so that it gives our bodies a chance to develop antibodies against the virus (which is what helps protect us against the virus). It can take a couple of weeks to develop these antibodies. In general, the CDC recommends that everyone greater than 6 months old gets the vaccine unless there is a contraindication. The two most common types of Influenza vaccines are the Live Attenuated Vaccine (aka Nasal Spray) or the Inactivated Vaccine (injected intramuscularly). Each has its own set of contraindications and side effects which can be reviewed in the link below.
It’s important to note that the flu vaccine does not cause the flu! This is a very common misconception in practice. It is possible that the vaccine, particularly the live attenuated nasal spray, can cause some “flu-like” symptoms, but this is not the flu! It’s always possible to catch a common cold during the time of receiving the Flu vaccine and many may attribute it to the vaccine but in reality it may simply be the common cold, which can be caused by over 200 other viruses! Besides, there is always the chance that you get the Flu within the first 2 weeks of being vaccinated and your body may have not had the chance to develop antibodies to protect you.
Although it is possible to get the Flu even if vaccinated, it offers protection in different ways. Ideally, it will completely prevent the illness even if exposed (like the case of my son in his Kindergarten class). However, this is not always the case but being vaccinated may shorten the course of the illness or make the symptoms milder. Influenza can be a potentially deadly disease and even partial protection is a huge plus!
So now is the time! Contact your physicians/pediatricians to make sure you and your family are a candidate for the Influenza Vaccine. Even if you have little ones less than 6 months old, you can protect them by getting vaccinated yourself!
For more information on Influenza and Influenza Vaccination:
Weekly Exclusive to aMother Adventure by:
Laura Soto, D.O.
Family Medicine Physician
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