Flu Shots

Author: Alison Sims, MD

I find there is a great divide among my patients: those who swear by the protection of their influenza vaccinations every fall season and those that are certain that the flu vaccine has caused them to “get the flu” and they avoid it like the plague.

It’s too bad so many people erroneously believe that the flu shot can “cause” the flu. It’s a dead piece of protein that mimics the whole influenza virus and simply boosts your antibody armies to recognize and fight the influenza strain more effectively. There’s no possible way the injectable influenza vaccine can cause influenza. If you get sick shortly after your flu shot, it is either a non-influenza virus, such as rhinovirus, or it is influenza coincidentally contracted during the two weeks when your body has not produced the army of antibodies to an effective level.

Some people may recall having a very sore arm, low grade temperatures, and body aches for a few days after they receive a flu shot. That is the normal response to a flu vaccine and it’s the time when your body is recognizing that “lock” of the vaccine and producing the matching “keys” to fight those three or four likely strains of the year. Even if the strains of influenza this year have mutated to a slightly different strain than the ones chosen from the previous year, the flu vaccine will still be protective, just to a lesser degree.

My advice is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you do contract the influenza virus without any booster protection you will most likely experience one of the most sudden and severe “colds” you have ever known. The influenza virus causes a sudden high fever over 101 degrees (and often up to 104 degrees), severe body aches, and a dry cough. Its rapid onset takes you by surprise, and will take you out of work and family life for at least a week.  The flu can potentially cost you thousands of dollars if you have complications such as pneumonia or worse.

So, do yourself a favor. Get a flu vaccine and avoid being a convalescent for a week or more this flu season. The flu vaccine is particularly important if you are older than 65, if you have any chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease, or if you are a caretaker of children.

If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to get vaccinated against influenza and you get a sudden high fever and body aches, please see a physician immediately.  The doctor can perform a rapid influenza nasal swab test and within 15 minutes you will know if you have influenza or another type of infection. If you test positive for influenza, you must start the antiviral treatment, Tamiflu, within 72 hours of the onset of fevers for the treatment to be effective in shortening the illness. Do not delay your evaluation!

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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