6 Myths about Flu Shots

Many people refuse to get a flu shot because they believe one or more misconceptions floating around on the Internet. Don’t let any of these myths keep you from getting a flu shot!

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 4.00.53 PM.png

1. Flu shots don’t work.
While it is true that flu shots do not keep everyone from getting the flu, effectiveness of the vaccine is rated by the CDC at about 60%. The flu is caused by several different viruses, and it is not possible to produce vaccines for all of them. Further, flu viruses mutate or change often and rapidly, compounding the difficulty. Finally, the vaccine becomes effective 2-3 weeks after the flu shot is administered, and some people catch the flu before then.

One other point to remember is that the primary goal of the flu vaccination program is to prevent an epidemic or pandemic, not to prevent every case of the flu. After all, we do not want to repeat the pandemic of 1918 when approximately 500 million people were affected worldwide resulting in deaths of 20-40 million in one year—the greatest natural disaster in world history. Further, even a modest reduction in flu cases helps to lessen the number of deaths among the elderly, chronically ill, and children. Even if you get the flu, perhaps from a different strain of the virus, you will probably endure less severe symptoms after having the shot.

2. Pregnant women should not get a flu shot.
Some have claimed that flu shots cause miscarriages or other health problems for pregnant women. No scientifically valid study supports that claim. In fact, the flu vaccine can protect both the mother and the fetus—a very important point, since children under 6 months should not receive the vaccine after they are born.

3. I should wait until later in the season to get a flu shot.
Many people put off getting a flu shot because they want the vaccine to last for the entire flu season. Research shows, however, that the vaccine is effective up to a year later which is plenty of coverage for a flu season that lasts from fall until May. No one can predict when outbreaks of the flu will begin. That is why medical authorities recommend getting a flu shot as early as mid-September.

4. I don’t need to get a flu shot every year.
Unlike many other vaccines, the one for influenza is changed every year to counter different or mutated strains of the virus. What worked effectively one year might not work as well the next. Scientists are working on developing synthetic vaccines that could be developed into a universal flu vaccine that would protect against all or most strains and could be administered by means of one dose for life. Until they succeed, however, we will need to get a flu shot every year.

5. People who are allergic to eggs should not get a flu shot.
Although the most widely used flu vaccines are manufactured by a process that uses chicken eggs, the amount of material derived from eggs is miniscule. Therefore, the CDC recommends that the vaccine is generally safe for those who exhibit allergic reactions to eggs. Such persons who are allergic to eggs should consult with their health provider before receiving the vaccine.

In addition, processes, such as cell-based and recombinant technology, that do not use chicken eggs at all have been developed and approved. These forms of the flu vaccine have been approved for use under the name Flublok® and can be administered to adults 18 years of age and older.

6. A flu shot can give you the flu.
No, a flu shot cannot give you the flu. That’s because all forms of the vaccine contain inactive forms of the flu virus.

Because the vaccine is not fully effective for 2-3 weeks, however, some people might get the flu shortly after receiving the shot. That experience probably reinforces this particular myth.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 9.01.11 AM.png

Bottom line: Get a flu shot this year!

For more information about flu shots, check out my previous post, Get Your Flu Shot Now! If you have questions, call us at Kathy’s Urgent Care.

Authored by Dr. Tom Brown.

Get Your Flu Shot This Fall!


download.jpeg

Get a Flu Shot!

Flu season looms! Get your flu shot before the end of October to protect yourself and others throughout the season that can last until next May. If you don’t have time to read the rest of this blog post, STOP READING! Just get your flu shot Kathy’s Urgent Care in Wethersfield or Berlin, CT. No appointment necessary.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?

More than 80,000 people died during the 2017-18 flu season (in recent years, the number of deaths has varied from 30,000 to 50,000). Therefore, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot.

·      Pregnant women are especially at risk and should be vaccinated. The flu vaccine also protects their unborn fetus from the flu—an especially important consideration, since children younger than 6 months should not receive a flu shot.

o   The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated in September, “Influenza vaccination is an essential element of prenatal care because pregnant women are at an increased risk of serious illness and mortality due to influenza. In addition, maternal vaccination is the most effective strategy to protect newborns because the vaccine is not approved for use in infants younger than six months.”

·      Children from 6 months to 18 years of age should get a flu shot. Children who receive their first vaccination will require two shots, 28 days apart. The CDC recommends against receiving a nasal spray vaccination.

·      Persons 65 years of age and older usually have weaker immune systems and should get a high-dose shot that protects against 4 strains of flu virus. They should also get a pneumococcal vaccination to protect against serious strains of pneumonia, since the elderly account for 85% of deaths due to flu and complications from pneumonia.

·      Anyone with a compromised immune system is especially at risk for the flu and should be vaccinated.

Note: Persons who are allergic to any component of the vaccine (for example, eggs), who had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past, who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (also called GBS), or who are not feeling well should discuss with their health provider whether they should receive the flu vaccine or what type of vaccine might be appropriate for them.

When Should You Get a Flu Shot?

For the 2018-19 flu season, the answer is simple: NOW! Patients are already beginning to show up at our clinics with flu (or West Nile) symptoms. It is impossible to predict just when a flu epidemic will begin, but there will be one and it is likely to be severe again. The vaccine takes 2-3 weeks to become effective. Therefore, the CDC recommends getting your flu shot before the end of October.

What Kind of Flu Shot Should You Get?

There are different types of flu vaccines that have been approved by the FDA for general use. To keep things simple, you should be aware of two main alternatives:

·      Most children and adults can get a trivalent shot—one that protects against three major flu viruses.

·      Persons 65 and older should get a high-dose, quadrivalent shot—one that protects against an additional flu virus strain and in a higher dose because of their declining immune system.

For more complete answers to this question, please consult the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the CDC website.

What Are the Side Effects of a Flu Shot?

You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Some people, however, might experience mild side effects that include soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site. About 1-2% of those receiving a flu shot will experience a low-grade fever.

Rarely, more serious side effects result from an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in the vaccine. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, swelling around the eyes or lips, hives, racing heart, dizziness and high fever. If you develop any of these symptoms, seek medical attention.

Remember, you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Because the vaccine takes 2-3 weeks to become effective, however, you can get the flu after you have had a flu shot. Further, since the vaccine is not effective against all strains of the flu, you can still get the flu from a strain against which you are not immunized. In those cases, your experience of the flu will probably be milder.

More about other questions will appear in a later post. If you have concerns about yourself or a family member getting a flu shot, call us at Kathy’s Urgent Care. We’re here to help.

School Sports and Concussion

If you are a parent of a student athlete, this back-to-school reminder is for you.

29fe3ecbbf877f8c025a20439b6c7870--soccer-baby-soccer-girls.jpg

As school athletic teams gear up for fall and winter, it’s time to think about concussions: how to prevent them and what to do when they happen. Every parent, coach, and school official should make this part of their back-to-school routine.

When sports-related concussion is mentioned, most people immediately think of boys’ football or ice hockey. But while these sports produce the highest rate of concussion, girls are also at risk.

As reported last year by The Atlantic, Olivia Hayward, a 90-pound high school varsity soccer player, got knocked to the ground. At first, she worried about her injured wrist. But a few days later, she had no appetite, was bothered by light, and had a throbbing headache. She failed the simple test for concussion that her coach had her take. Her doctor finally determined that she had suffered whiplash and a concussion, her second. She missed 3 weeks of school, and her parents had to read her assignments to her. And she was among the lucky ones.

Concussion Suspected?

When student athletes display or report symptoms associated with concussion, most coaches remove them from play until a medical professional has conducted an examination. The general rule is, “When in doubt, sit them out.” Follow-up for a few days or weeks by a licensed health care provider is often recommended. Nearly all states require these measures by law.

Most children and teens will be able to return gradually to school and sports activities. Sometimes after severe or repeated concussion, support services are needed. Because a concussion is a bruising of the brain, it can affect learning and mood. Teachers might need to tailor assignments and exams to accommodate concussed students. School officials, teachers, educational specialists, school nurses, coaches, and parents should work together as a team to make sure that a student’s returning to school and/or sports activities occurs smoothly and is monitored.

Bottom line: Whenever you suspect a student athlete has suffered a concussion, have a licensed health care provider (physician or physician assistant) evaluate the situation.

College-football-player-having-doctor-review-his-concussion-injury-FI.jpg

Important resource: The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) provides much useful information, including several videos, for parents, athletes, coaches, teachers, school officials, health providers, and others about sports-related concussion. Become informed and get involved!

Reducing Risk of Concussion

Risk of concussion varies by sport and, to some extent, by sex (girls might be at greater risk than boys in sports played by both). The following measures can reduce risk.

  • Athletes must wear protective equipment that is in good condition and appropriate for each activity. Be sure that it fits. (Remember: a person can still have a concussion even if wearing a helmet.)
  • Make sure that coaches limit hard physical contact especially during practice.
  • Check with school officials that their policies and procedures regarding concussion—both prevention and concussive events—reflect best practice and not just state law.
  • Ensure that your son or daughter understands the importance of following safety rules, and tell them to let you know if they have suffered any blow to the head during their sports activity.
  • Join others in making sure that state law, education regulations, and athletic rules incorporate the recommendations of experts in traumatic brain injury and its prevention.

A Final Word

Concussion is one form of traumatic brain injury that is widespread and serious. At Kathy’s Urgent Care, we evaluate one to two patients per week for concussion from all sources (falls, vehicle accidents, workplace injuries, sports activities, etc.).

For more information about symptoms and other aspects of traumatic brain injury, please see our previous blog post on this topic.