Prevention is your best line of defense against most illnesses, the flu included. What does flu prevention look like? It starts with an annual flu vaccine as well as taking increased precautions, many of which have become a normal part of life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As we’ve seen with COVID, you can still contract a virus even when taking the right behavioral precautions, so the influenza vaccine is truly your best line of defense.
According to the CDC, we can expect flu activity to increase starting in October. Flu cases will continue to spike after that, and peak activity is usually from December through February. Right now, the biggest step you can take is to get your Influenza vaccine. To help you feel more prepared, let’s review some of the most frequently asked questions about the common flu vaccine.
How does the vaccine work?
Viral infections, such as influenza, occur due to a lack of antibodies in the immune system. The flu vaccine helps the body create antibodies during the two weeks after the shot is received. Once the antibodies are created, the body has a line of defense against the virus and is less susceptible to illness.
When should I get vaccinated?
The best time to get a flu vaccination is two weeks prior to estimated flu activity in your area. On average, the flu begins to spread at the beginning of the fall season. It takes a couple of weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to develop antibodies and begin protecting against influenza, so keep that in mind when scheduling your appointment. Even if you miss this window, flu vaccines are offered throughout the entire flu season, so you will still have the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Why do I need an annual vaccine?
The immune protection from a flu vaccine is less effective over time, and influenza viruses are constantly evolving. Seasonal flu vaccines are developed based on the viruses that are most prevalent each season. Given this, each season’s vaccine may be different. To keep your immune system best protected, annual vaccination is the best strategy.
Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
Vaccinations will not cause influenza, although you may experience mild flu-like symptoms after getting your vaccine. This is NOT the flu, but instead your immune system reacting and getting to work. Flu shots are created from inactivated viruses and therefore cannot give you the flu.
Could I still get the flu after being vaccinated?
Unfortunately, it is still possible to catch the flu even after vaccination. You may have been exposed to the flu prior to or directly after receiving your vaccine, so the flu shot would be ineffective. You may also be exposed to a virus that wasn’t included in the seasonal vaccination you received. Depending on your age and health, your immune system may still be susceptible to the virus despite receiving a vaccination and building antibodies to protect against it. However, your illness will be less severe having the vaccine two weeks prior to illness than it would be without the vaccine.
Fortunately, if you do find yourself feeling ill this flu season, there is flu treatment available. If you seek treatment at the first sign of symptoms, antiviral drugs may be prescribed which can decrease both the length and severity of your illness. At Piedmont Urgent Care, we provide rapid flu testing and antiviral treatment for our patients who come down with the flu. Flu treatment works best when administered within 48-72 hours of symptom onset, so the sooner you seek care, the sooner we can get you feeling better.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
The flu vaccine is safe for almost everyone, excluding those who are allergic and others who have Guillain-Barré syndrome. Always consult a physician if you have doubts or concerns regarding your flu vaccine.
Should I get vaccinated if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
It is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding individuals to receive the flu shot. In fact, the flu shot helps provide further protection to the fetus or infant, as antibodies are passed to a fetus in the womb or to a baby through breastmilk. Pregnant individuals should not receive a nasal spray vaccination.
What side effects can I expect from the vaccine?
Side effects of the flu vaccination depend on the type of vaccine you receive. Regardless, the side effects will be short-lasting and mild compared to an actual case of the flu.
Flu shot side effects:
- Soreness, swelling, and redness at the injection site
- Muscle aches
Nasal spray side effects:
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Similar to other vaccinations, flu shots may occasionally cause fainting. Stay with your provider after receiving the vaccine so they may monitor for dizziness or allergic reactions.
Will the flu vaccine protect against COVID?
No, the flu vaccine cannot provide protection against COVID. However, preventing the flu will decrease your risk for severe illness following a positive COVID test. Individuals may have COVID and the flu at the same time, or directly after one another, and such individuals are at a higher risk for severe illnesses.
Fight the Flu With Piedmont Urgent Care
Piedmont Urgent Care offers safe, annual flu vaccinations at no cost with most insurance plans. Our goal is to keep you healthy, and we also provide safe and effective flu treatment to get you back to feeling better, sooner. For any complications or other illnesses, we’re open 365 days a year. Find your nearest location and book ahead now!