It’s that time of year again- for changing leaves, for a slight chill in the air and for flu vaccinations. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. There are two types of flu vaccines: flu shots and nasal sprays.
“Flu shots” are inactivated vaccines (containing killed virus) that are given with a needle. There are three flu shots being produced for the United States market now.
- The regular seasonal flu shot is “intramuscular” which means it is injected into muscle (usually in the upper arm). It has been used for decades and is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. Regular flu shots make up the bulk of the vaccine supply produced for the United States.
- A hi-dose vaccine for people 65 and older which also is intramuscular. This vaccine was first made available during the 2010-2011 season.
- An intradermal vaccine for people 18 to 64 years of age which is injected with a needle into the “dermis” or skin. This vaccine is being made available for the first time for the 2011-2012 season.
About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common.
If you’re interested in getting vaccinated find a primary care physician to administer the flu shot!
Identifying Flu Symptoms
Flu may take from 1-7 days from exposure before the illness develops. Below are flu symptoms:
- Fever (100°F or greater)
- Respiratory tract illness (cough, sore throat, runny nose)
- Muscle aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
When to Seek Treatment for the Flu
Flu symptoms usually resolve in 5 days. If symptoms last longer, contact your doctor. Anyone at higher risk for flu complications should seek care at the earliest signs of flu. Medicines (antivirals) work best if given within 48 hours of symptoms. Also be aware of warning signs of potentially life threatening symptoms to seek medical care immediately.