Facts You Should Know About The Flu Vaccine

One of the most effective ways of reducing the risk of influenza, the flu vaccine reduces the likelihood of having to see the doctor forĀ flu by up to 60% (via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Every year, experts from the World Health Organization Global Influenza Surveillance Response System work to update the flu vaccine to target the strains of the influenza virus they expect to be most prevalent during the upcoming flu season (via Everyday Health). Although the experts' research tends to be accurate, the circulating virus can occasionally differ from the vaccine, and the vaccine's effectiveness can also shift from year to year as well.

According to the CDC, the way the flu vaccine works is by triggering antibodies to develop, giving us the protection we need against flu illnesses. The body takes about two weeks to build up immunity to the flu virus, so you can still get sick during that time. It's for this reason that experts recommend getting a flu shot in the fall before flu season gets in full swing.

Who should get the flu shot?

The Mayo Clinic notes that everyone aged six months and older should be vaccinated against influenza. For people with a high risk of complications from the flu, such as pregnant women, young children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems, vaccination is especially important.

According to Harvard Medical School, it's important for people to be vaccinated every year because the outer structures of the flu virus, which the antibodies target, are continually changing. Scientists are studying the virus's inner structures, which remain the same, in the hopes of developing a universal vaccine that would not need to be taken annually, but that is still years away.

There are several different types of flu vaccines (via the CDC), with the standard version using a virus grown in eggs. For people with a severe egg allergy, there are egg-free versions of the vaccine, although these are for people who are 18 or older (via the Mayo Clinic).

Also, if you are afraid of needles, there is a version available in a nasal spray (via WebMD). However, the spray is only available for patients between the ages of 2 and 49.

What are the side effects?

Many people worry about having side effects from the flu vaccine. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, the flu vaccine will not give you the flu, nor can it lead to an increased risk for COVID-19.

With that said, you can experience some side effects, including muscle aches and a fever that may last a day or two. These could be caused by your body producing protective antibodies.

Some people may experience fainting, as they might with any other injection, according to the Baltimore City Health Department. Let your provider know if you are experiencing dizziness, vision changes, or a ringing in your ears.

In addition to muscle aches and fever, you may also experience some soreness or redness at the injection site, a headache, or other aches and pains (via Healthline). In most cases, these side effects should subside within a day or two.

If you develop more serious symptoms, such as a fever of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or hives, a fast heart rate, or trouble breathing, you should contact your doctor immediately, or seek emergency medical care if the symptoms are severe.