The flu, more correctly known as influenza, is an extremely contagious illness that affects the respiratory system. It is caused by several different types of viruses and most commonly affects people during the winter and the early spring.
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
The flu is a much more serious illness. Colds and flu do have some symptoms in common like headaches and coughing. The flu, however, is also accompanied by a high fever, extreme fatigue and aches all over the body. Symptoms of the flu also tend to appear suddenly, while those of the cold develop gradually. The flu can also lead to such life-threatening complications as pneumonia, while a cold does not.
How does a flu vaccine work?
Flu vaccines can be made from inactivated flu viruses grown in eggs, or they can be a recombinant vaccine that is not made with any viruses. They both work by stimulating the body into producing antibodies that will protect the patient from the flu. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect.
Flu vaccines are administered by injection. Most are trivalent, which means they will protect the patient against three types of flu virus: an influenza B virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza A (H1N1) virus. Some vaccines are quadrivalent, which means they are effective against four types of flu virus. Quadrivalent vaccines work against the same three viruses as do trivalent vaccines, plus an additional influenza B virus.
Who should get vaccinated?
Ever since 2010, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has been recommending that everybody who is at least six months old be vaccinated against the flu. People need to be vaccinated every year, since the vaccine loses its effectiveness over time. In addition, the formula of the vaccine changes from year to year to keep up with changing flu viruses.
People who are at risk from flu-related complications like pneumonia, sinus infections or bronchitis should definitely get flu shots. Such individuals include the following:
- Anybody over 65 or under 5 years old
- People in long-term care facilities like nursing homes
- Women who are pregnant or who have just given birth within the past two weeks
- People with compromised immune systems
There are also many diseases and disorders that increase the risk of flu-related complications, ranging from such obvious candidates as lung disease or asthma to less obvious candidates as neurological disorders like cerebral palsy or epilepsy. Patients with liver disorders, metabolic disorders, kidney disorders, endocrine disorders, and/or heart disease are also more susceptible to flu-related complications.
Finally, there is some evidence that Native Americans have a greater vulnerability to flu-related complications.
Will the flu vaccine make someone sick?
This is common misconception, the flu vaccine will not cause illness. They can cause minor and short-lived side effects like soreness, swelling or redness at the injection site, aches or a minor fever. There is also the chance of being allergic to either the shot itself or the eggs in which the formulas are created.
Flu season is in full swing! Don’t miss a day of work or school by calling Simply Slim Medical and scheduling your flu shot appointment. Serving the Bethesda, MD and surrounding areas, contact us today!