Getting the flu vaccine this winter

For both children and adults, the best bet against influenza virus during the winters, according to experts like Best Pulmonologist in Lahore is: the flu vaccine. Why exactly should one get a flu vaccine every year? Read on to find out:

What is the influenza virus?

Influenza virus is a respiratory virus—affecting the nose, lungs and throat—that causes serious infection and complications in older adults and young children if infected. It is most prevalent during the winter season and is more severe than a common cold. Like any respiratory tract virus, it spreads easily from person-to-person, especially if they an already weakened immune system.

The symptoms of influenza virus start a couple of days after contracting the virus and range from: sudden fever, tiredness, cough, head and body aches, chills, nausea, ear pain, diarrhea, runny nose, loss of appetite, weakness and dizziness. When children contract the virus, they become fussy. It takes about one week, if there is no serious complication, for someone to recover from flu. For children, it takes longer.

The at-home treatment for flu is centered around: drinking plenty of fluids, wearing easy to remove layers particularly for children, getting plenty of rest, taking over-the-counter fever reducers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. An antiviral is only prescribed by the healthcare provider if there is serious illness.

Why should you get vaccinated every year?

Flu vaccines cover protection against the dominant strains of influenza virus. This dominant strain changes every year, and the immune system becomes weaker over time; which is why annual flu shot is mandated. The protection that one vaccine offers also wanes over time, with lower levels of antibodies against influenza virus. Influenza virus is the reason for so many deaths and hospitalizations every winter. It is better to get immunity against this virus rather than risking health.

It takes around ten days for the antibodies to form after the vaccine. Despite the vaccination, a variant strain can cause infection in you; but rest assured, the infection will be much milder than in unvaccinated individuals and will not last as long.

Getting the flu vaccine also stops you from spreading the virus to other people. Influenza virus can cause serious disease, in the at-risk populations like young children and the elderly. It’s important to obtain protection from the vaccine as early as possible, rather than risking serious disease.

When does the flu vaccine become available?

The vaccine becomes available in the fall season, annually. It is ideal to get vaccinated before it spread in the community. As mentioned before, it takes ten days for the vaccine to kick in and offer protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated by end of October for optimal protection, however, even later is also beneficial.  

Flu vaccine can also be taken with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Who should get vaccinated?

According to the recommendations of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following groups should get annual flu vaccines:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with weak immune systems
  • Primary and secondary school children
  • Adults above the age of 50 years
  • Adults living in nursing homes  
  • Individuals suffering from chronic medical conditions, examples of which include: asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer, COPD, diabetes, HIV, obesity, chronic liver disease, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, brain disease or any nervous system condition.  
  • Healthcare workers
  • Prison population

Who should not get the flu vaccine?

Flu vaccine is not recommended for the people who have previous history of allergic reaction to the vaccine. Some flu vaccines are made using eggs, so anyone with a history of egg allergy should ask their healthcare provider or Best Pulmonologist in Karachi for advice.

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