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The Basics of Influenza

With the arrival of flu season, it’s time to start heading to your local healthcare provider for a flu shot. Not sure if you should get one? Let’s take a look at some common questions surrounding this important topic.

Can people with egg allergies get a flu shot?
If you’re not overly familiar with how flu shots are made, you might not know that most flu shots and nasal spray flu vaccines contain a small amount of egg protein. This has been a concern for people with egg allergies. However, people with egg allergies can, in fact, get a flu shot. The CDC has recently changed its guidelines to say that, “People with a history of severe allergic reaction to egg can now be vaccinated in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting under the supervision of any health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.”* Additionally, people with an egg allergy no longer need to be observed for 30 minutes after being vaccinated.

Why the change? Data from a CDC study showed that after all vaccinations were given, only 1.31 per one million resulted in anaphylaxis.

It is important to note that if you have previously had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine (regardless of whether or not it was related to an egg allergy), you should not get a flu vaccine again. As always, make sure you discuss any known allergies with your healthcare provider prior to getting vaccinated.

Can the flu shot give you the flu?
Contrary to popular belief, the flu shot will not give you the flu. Flu shots are either made with flu vaccine viruses that are not infectious, or they’re not made with any flu vaccine viruses at all. However, getting a flu shot can cause common side effects that people often describe as flu-like symptoms, which can include soreness/tenderness where the shot was given, low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches. Side effects (if any) occur because your body is reacting to a foreign substance in the body, rather than because the flu shot has given you the flu.

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
Unlike some vaccines which can provide immunity for a number of years, the flu vaccine is different. This is partly because of the fact that the flu virus is not always the same each year, which means that the vaccine itself needs to be adjusted. Secondly, your immunity to the flu decreases over time, so it’s best to keep up with your annual vaccination in order to get the best protection.

Is it better to risk getting the flu itself than to get the flu vaccine?
It’s common for people to feel like they would rather risk getting the flu than to get vaccinated. However, this is not worth the risk as the flu can be a very serious thing to deal with, particularly when a small child, older adult, or someone with a chronic health condition is infected. The flu has the ability to cause serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. It’s better to be proactive and make sure you’re protected by getting the flu vaccine at the beginning of flu season.

The above information was pulled from the CDC’s website. This is a great resource to use if you’re looking for more information about the flu and the flu vaccine. As always, talk to your healthcare provider about your options.