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The flu vaccine – your best shot at avoiding flu

12 April 2016
7 minute read

Bottle with flu shot

As winter approaches, there’s a fairly good chance that you’ll come down with a cold or, far worse, a bout of the flu. There are many steps you can take to reduce your chances of contracting a virus, but one of the most important steps you can take to safeguard your health is getting the flu vaccine. This is important because flu is a serious illness that can cause severe complications and even death – particularly in the very old, the very young and people with low immunities.

As winter approaches, there’s a fairly good chance that you’ll come down with a cold or, far worse, a bout of the flu. There are many steps you can take to reduce your chances of contracting a virus, but one of the most important steps you can take to safeguard your health is getting the flu vaccine. This is important because flu is a serious illness that can cause severe complications and even death – particularly in the very old, the very young and people with low immunities.

Strangely, despite this being your best chance of avoiding a debilitating and even life threatening case of the flu, most people are still resistant to getting the vaccine.

Strangely, despite this being your best chance of avoiding a debilitating and even life threatening case of the flu, most people are still resistant to getting the vaccine. This is partly because people underestimate the seriousness of the flu, and partly because there are many misconceptions about the vaccination itself. We’ve answered some of the most common questions that people ask about the flu vaccination to clear up any misconceptions that are preventing you from having this potentially life-saving intervention.

Some people who have the flu vaccine still get the flu, so does it really work? People sometimes still get the flu after they’ve been vaccinated against it because while the vaccine protects you against multiple strains of the virus, it doesn’t protect you against all of them. Researchers have to make their best guess every season about which the most likely strain of flu will be, but others still exist. For this reason, it’s important to understand that while the flu vaccination is your best prevention against contracting the flu, it shouldn’t be the only measure that you take, and it’s still certainly possible for you to contract a virus.

The flu vaccine contains the flu virus, so is there a chance it will give me the flu? The flu vaccination contains a dead virus, which means that it is not possible for it to give you the flu – it simply stimulates the production of antibodies against the virus. However, there is a two-week period before those antibodies come into effect, in which it is possible for you to get the flu. It is also possible, as explained above, for you to contract a different flu virus to the ones contained in the vaccination.

I had the flu vaccination last year. Do I need to have it again? The influenza virus mutates every year, so the vaccination you received last year will be ineffective against the mutated viruses that are prevalent this season. For this reason, you need the new vaccination that comes out every year.

I’ve already had flu this winter, so am I now immune? If you have already had the flu, you will only have immunity to that particular strain. As we’ve explained, the flu virus contains multiple strains of the virus, so you could still contract another bout of a different flu in the same season.

I am pregnant and I have small children. Can my whole family get the flu vaccine? In fact, pregnant women and children should get the flu vaccination as they are in higher-risk groups that are more likely to contract the influenza virus and more likely to suffer complications if they do contract it. However, children under three years but over six months get a half dose, and pregnant women are advised to wait out the first trimester.

Will the flu vaccination protect me against colds as well as flu? Unfortunately not. The virus that causes a cold is different to the virus that causes flu. But even though having a cold is unpleasant, it is in no way as serious as contracting the flu.

But that’s not all!While the flu vaccine provides the best protection against contracting the influenza virus, there are a number of other steps you should take every winter (and all year around) to stay flu-free, avoid colds and reduce the risk of transmission to others:

  • Wash your hands – if you have been out in public or in contact with other people, wash your hands, and make a conscious effort to avoid touching your face.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands – this prevents you from spreading the virus to other people by touching surfaces.
  • Avoid contact with sick people and don’t come into work if you are sick
  • If someone has a cold or the flu, keep your distance – and isolate yourself if you are sick.
  • Do everything you can to stay fit and healthy – get enough sleep, stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, like those found in raw fruit and vegetables.

Do your best to stay healthy this winter by getting the flu vaccination and taking these simple steps.

Strangely, despite this being your best chance of avoiding a debilitating and even life threatening case of the flu, most people are still resistant to getting the vaccine. This is partly because people underestimate the seriousness of the flu, and partly because there are many misconceptions about the vaccination itself. We’ve answered some of the most common questions that people ask about the flu vaccination to clear up any misconceptions that are preventing you from having this potentially life-saving intervention.

Some people who have the flu vaccine still get the flu, so does it really work? People sometimes still get the flu after they’ve been vaccinated against it because while the vaccine protects you against multiple strains of the virus, it doesn’t protect you against all of them. Researchers have to make their best guess every season about which the most likely strain of flu will be, but others still exist. For this reason, it’s important to understand that while the flu vaccination is your best prevention against contracting the flu, it shouldn’t be the only measure that you take, and it’s still certainly possible for you to contract a virus.

The flu vaccine contains the flu virus, so is there a chance it will give me the flu? The flu vaccination contains a dead virus, which means that it is not possible for it to give you the flu – it simply stimulates the production of antibodies against the virus. However, there is a two-week period before those antibodies come into effect, in which it is possible for you to get the flu. It is also possible, as explained above, for you to contract a different flu virus to the ones contained in the vaccination.

I had the flu vaccination last year. Do I need to have it again? The influenza virus mutates every year, so the vaccination you received last year will be ineffective against the mutated viruses that are prevalent this season. For this reason, you need the new vaccination that comes out every year.

I’ve already had flu this winter, so am I now immune? If you have already had the flu, you will only have immunity to that particular strain. As we’ve explained, the flu virus contains multiple strains of the virus, so you could still contract another bout of a different flu in the same season.

I am pregnant and I have small children. Can my whole family get the flu vaccine? In fact, pregnant women and children should get the flu vaccination as they are in higher-risk groups that are more likely to contract the influenza virus and more likely to suffer complications if they do contract it. However, children under three years but over six months get a half dose, and pregnant women are advised to wait out the first trimester.

Will the flu vaccination protect me against colds as well as flu? Unfortunately not. The virus that causes a cold is different to the virus that causes flu. But even though having a cold is unpleasant, it is in no way as serious as contracting the flu.

But that’s not all!While the flu vaccine provides the best protection against contracting the influenza virus, there are a number of other steps you should take every winter (and all year around) to stay flu-free, avoid colds and reduce the risk of transmission to others:

  • Wash your hands – if you have been out in public or in contact with other people, wash your hands, and make a conscious effort to avoid touching your face.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands – this prevents you from spreading the virus to other people by touching surfaces.
  • Avoid contact with sick people and don’t come into work if you are sick
  • If someone has a cold or the flu, keep your distance – and isolate yourself if you are sick.
  • Do everything you can to stay fit and healthy – get enough sleep, stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, like those found in raw fruit and vegetables.

Do your best to stay healthy this winter by getting the flu vaccination and taking these simple steps.

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