Coming down with the flu is always a bummer. As we continue through the rest of winter, many will come down with this common seasonal illness. The seasonal flu is often accompanied by shivers, chills, fever, and overall fatigue that may take weeks for you to recover from.
While many people may—and should—get a flu vaccine, which is easily accessible and effective in prevention against these flu symptoms, the flu vaccine may prove to be dangerous for some individuals, especially those with the Guillain-Barré disease or children below the age of six months.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you should know before getting a flu vaccine.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations every year for everyone 6 months and older. For the vast majority of people, getting a flu vaccine is perfectly safe—no one has died from a flu vaccine since the last flu vaccine was licensed in 1979. However, under certain circumstances, you may need to be careful and consider the ingredients in the vaccine to ensure that it’s safe for you. For example, individuals who are allergic to eggs or mercury should avoid getting the flu vaccine. The flu shot is also not recommended for those with the Guillain Barre Syndrome as in extremely rare cases, those who took the flu vaccine increased their risk of experiencing complications from Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
However, stopping the flu before it starts is just as important as following through on the recommendations made by your physician. If you have complicating factors that prevent you from receiving the flu shot, but your family and friends do not, you should encourage them to get their vaccinations. The more people who get the flu shot, the less likely it is that you and others who may not be about to receive a flu shot will contract the flu. If there are fewer people getting sick with the flu, that means fewer people who can transmit it to you.
Though a flu vaccine may seem like an essential health prevention measure, taking it can involve certain health risks for a few individuals. Below, we discuss some of the risks of the flu vaccine.
It is very rare, but a few people may get a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. If you’re allergic to the flu vaccine, you may experience adverse reactions to the vaccine within a few minutes or hours from taking the flu vaccine shot. Some of the common symptoms you may experience are difficulty in breathing, wheezing, increased heartbeat, rashes, weakness, dizziness, and swelling around the eyes and mouth.
If you experience any of these symptoms after taking a flu vaccine, it’s advisable to visit your doctor immediately. If the allergic reactions persist or become severe, immediately go to the emergency room.
In most people, it takes around two weeks after getting the vaccine for your body to develop an immune response against the virus. Thus, there is a likelihood of coming down with the flu even after you’ve got the flu vaccine. This means you’ll have to deal with the common flu symptoms like cold, sneezing, body ache, and fatigue, even after you’ve taken a flu vaccine.
You may also come down with the flu even after getting a flu shot if there isn’t a good vaccine match. When designing the annual flu shot, researchers need to decide which virus strains to include in the vaccine, which happens several months before the vaccine comes on the market. This is determined by the previous flu season and data gathered regarding which strains are the most predominant out in public.
By the time the vaccine is being used, there’s a chance that there are several different virus strains circulating during flu season. As these new strains may not be included in the vaccine, the vaccine cannot entirely protect you from these other strains, and you may still get a strain of the flu.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system starts to attack your peripheral nerves. Eventually, the person’s immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and, in more severe cases, leading to paralysis.
The symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) most commonly last only for a few weeks, and you are likely to recover from it within two weeks. However, in some cases, GBS can cause long-term nerve damage.
In rare cases, the flu vaccine can trigger GBS. It has been indicated that some people have developed GBS within days or weeks of getting the flu vaccination. Though anyone can develop GBS, it’s most common in older adults.
For those who already have Guillain-Barré syndrome, it’s important to talk to your doctor before getting the flu vaccine.
Since getting the flu puts you at a higher risk of contracting several diseases, a flu vaccine may be essential for those of you who are in the high-risk group. Make sure to get the flu vaccine if you are 65 years or older, have chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma, or HIV, have a weak immune system, or are a health worker exposed to people who are ill.
It’s also crucial for pregnant women to get the flu shot since symptoms of the flu may be dangerous for the mother and the developing fetus.
If you’re feeling sick and want to get vaccinated, it’s advisable to contact your doctor. While getting a flu vaccine if you have a mild cold is safe, you may have to wait to take the flu shot if you have a fever.
A flu vaccine may not be safe for those with Guillain-Barré syndrome, babies below the age of 6 months, and those of you who may have had an adverse reaction to a flu vaccine previously. You may also consult your doctor before taking a flu vaccine if you’re allergic to eggs or mercury.
While the flu vaccine is crucial to prevent you from seasonal flu, it can also be dangerous for a small group of people. Therefore, before you take a flu vaccine, consult your doctor. This is especially important for those with Guillain-Barré syndrome or people who have had an adverse reaction to the flu vaccination previously. However, don’t be afraid to encourage those around you to get their flu shots to help preserve their health as well as yours.
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