I frequently hear from my patients “I don’t get the flu” or “The flu shot gave me the flu.” I am armed with some CDC updates which, hopefully, will debunk some myths.
The “flu” is a respiratory virus which causes incessant cough, muscle (can’t-get-out-of-bed)-aches and high fever. It is not a GI virus. If you have ever had the flu, you know you do not want it again.
The seasonal flu infection occurs highest in children; whereas, the highest rates of serious illness and death are highest in those older than 65 years of age, children less than 2 years, and those with chronic medical conditions.
Who should get the flu vaccine? All people 6 months and older. The first time a 6 month old to 8-year-old is vaccinated, two doses of vaccine, spaced one month apart, are required to help you make a strong response.
Should I get the flu shot or the “mist”? You can get the mist if you between the ages of 2 – 49 years old, not pregnant, without a history of asthma, or high risk patients (with COPD, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal, hepatic, neurologic, or HIV). The mist is a “live attenuated” virus. Some patients opt for the injection. Both are effective and safe in the population as above.
Can I get the mist if I LIVE WITH someone who is immune compromised? Yes, if the immunosuppressed person doesn’t require a protected environment.
Can I get the flu vaccine (either one) with other vaccines? Yes. Consider, if you are receiving another live attenuated vaccine (MMR or chicken pox vaccine) at the same time, to space them 4 weeks apart. If the patient is 12-15 months of age, then it is well-studied and okay.
Can you cure the flu infection? There are antiviral medications with activity against influenza viruses. These are useful adjuncts and are effective ONLY when used early in the illness. The antivirals decrease the length and severity of symptoms, but you are guaranteed to feel bad for a few days.
My office is giving flu vaccines now. Come in and enjoy flu season. . .comfortably.