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How to Tackle the Flu Season

patient receiving flu shot

In light of National Pharmacists Month, we’ve asked our pharmacy department for advice on the upcoming flu season. Our pharmacists help promote and provide flu vaccinations to prevent influenza. In the HSS community, our pharmacists are involved in increasing awareness about the importance and benefits of annual flu vaccination. It is all the more important for patients to get the flu vaccine to help protect against infections prior to surgery and during recovery. While HSS has extremely low infection rates (0.4%) that are significantly lower than the NY state average of 1.1%, this is an added measure you can take to protect yourself. Even healthy people need flu vaccine! The Pharmacy Department is currently providing HSS with flu vaccines, which are offered to all eligible patients.

HSS Pharmacist Tina Yip shares what you need to know about the flu shot and flu season this year:

Common misconceptions

  • No need to re-vaccinate with the flu vaccine annually
  • The flu vaccine causes harmful effects including getting the flu
  • The flu vaccine overworks your immune system
  • There are batches of flu vaccine that might be dangerous

How do you know you have the flu?

  • Cough and/or sneeze (this spreads the disease)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny and/or stuffy nose
  • Fever
  • Body/muscle aches
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Headache/dizziness

Complications from the flu

  • Pneumonia
  • Heart disease (Myocarditis)
  • Hospitalization
  • Death
  • Reye’s syndrome (in children)

Why should you get a flu vaccine?

The flu (influenza) is a highly contagious viral illness. The flu is extremely unpredictable and indiscriminating. The flu vaccine is the most effective strategy for preventing influenza and its complications.

How do flu vaccines work?

The flu shot contains inactive, weakened or imitations of viruses that cause antibodies to develop in your body against the flu.

Who should get a flu vaccine?

  • Anyone who is at least 6 months old without having contraindications to the vaccine
  • It is very important for the following people to get the flu vaccine:
    • People with asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease, immunosuppressed (e.g. HIV, taking immunosuppressing medication)
    • Pregnant women (can only get the vaccine, not the nasal spray)
    • Kids younger than 5
    • Adults older than 65
    • People who live with, care, or come in contact for the above listed people
    • Parents and caregivers of newborns

Who should not get vaccinated?

  • Newborns less than 6 months old
  • If you had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine dose or component in the past
  • People who are currently sick should wait until they recover

Does the flu shot work right away?

No, it takes 2 weeks for it to kick in. That is why it is best to get the shot sooner rather than later. It is highly recommended to get the vaccine by the end of October.

Can I get the flu if I get a vaccine?

Yes, it is still possible. The ability for the vaccine to prevent you from getting the flu depends on various factors including age, health status, and the match between the vaccine and the circulating virus. It is important to remember that no matter how good or bad the match is, the vaccine can prevent flu-related complications even if you do get the flu.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

NO! Flu vaccines that are given with a needle either contain an inactive virus or no virus at all. The only flu vaccine that contains the active virus is the nasal spray (approved in healthy non-pregnant patients between the ages of 2-49). However, it is a weakened version of the virus and cannot replicate at the temperature of the lower respiratory tract, therefore unable to give you the flu.

If I received the nasal spray flu vaccine, is it possible I transmit the virus to someone else?

It is rare to give the virus to someone else after receiving the nasal spray but is still possible because it takes about up to one week for the active virus to work through the immune system.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects of the shot are soreness and/or swelling where the shot was given, low-grade fever and aches and general feelings of discomfort. With the nasal spray, the most common side effects are runny and/or stuffy nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches and fever. If these side effects occur, they usually last 1-2 days.

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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.