The common cold and influenza become more prevalent in the colder months and cause similar symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny nose, and cough. Many over-the-counter medications are labeled as addressing both cold and flu symptoms, which may lead you to believe that influenza is simply a severe cold—but that is incorrect. Influenza and the common cold are caused by different viruses, with influenza presenting stronger symptoms, high fever, and an increased potential for serious, sometimes fatal, medical complications.
The influenza vaccine protects you from illness by encouraging your immune system to produce antibodies against the dead flu virus contained in the vaccine, which takes about two weeks to fully develop. While flu shots aren’t 100% effective in preventing you from contracting the illness, they are the strongest method we have to protect ourselves against it. Flu shots also reduce the severity and duration of the virus, thus helping to protect against the development of flu-related complications. Here, Iowa Specialty Hospital in Belmond and Clarion, IA, takes a look at flu symptoms and why it’s important to get the influenza vaccine.
Signs and symptoms of influenza
Flu season typically starts in early fall, peaks in winter, and begins to wrap up in early spring, though it’s important to note that you can contract the flu at any time of year. Vigilance is key, so it’s essential to understand what to look for.
The most common symptoms of the flu include:
• Fever and chills
• Sore throat
• Muscle or body aches
While influenza shares some symptoms with the common cold, flu symptoms tend to feel like they came out of nowhere and don’t always include the cold-common symptoms of a runny or stuffy nose. Additionally, contracting the flu can lead to moderate or even severe complications, such as pneumonia, myocarditis, encephalitis, and organ failure.
Who should get the flu shot?
The CDC recommends flu shots for everyone six months of age and older. People in high-risk groups should place importance on getting their shot, preferably before the start of flu season.
At-risk people include:
• Pregnant women
• Children between six months and five years of age
• People over 50
• Those with chronic medical conditions
• Workers and caregivers of children, the elderly, or other high-risk people
There are a few cases where the flu vaccine is not recommended. These include people that have had a previous bad reaction, those with severe egg or mercury allergies, Guillain-Barre syndrome sufferers, or those presenting with fever at the time of the intended vaccination. If you are able to get a flu vaccine, doing so is a great way to protect not just yourself, but those who are otherwise unable to receive it themselves.
Can the flu shot make me sick?
Due to a number of people reporting flu symptoms soon after receiving their vaccine, many people believe the shot may actually be causing the illness and therefore opt not to receive it. This belief is nothing more than a misunderstanding. Because the virus contained in the shot is inactive, it’s not possible for it to infect you. However, it can take up to two weeks for your body to develop the necessary antibodies, which leaves a window of opportunity to contract the virus and develop symptoms.
Why is it important to vaccinate against the flu?
More than 200,000 people in the U.S. alone are hospitalized each year for the flu and flu-related complications, with an estimate of anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000 flu-related deaths a year. The CDC states that a yearly flu vaccine can reduce the risk of developing flu-related illnesses by up to 61%, helping to protect you from becoming a statistic.
Did you receive a shot last year? Influenza is a tricky beast with many different strains that can change year to year. When combined with the decreased efficiency of a single vaccine over time, it’s essential to receive the flu shot every year to ensure you’re getting the right influenza shot for the upcoming season.
In addition to protecting yourself, receiving your flu shot is a public service to your community. Receiving the flu shot helps prevent the spread of the virus to those that aren’t yet vaccinated or who are unable to receive the vaccine, such as immunocompromised individuals, young infants, and those with life-threatening allergies to any of the ingredients used in the vaccine.
Iowa Specialty Hospital in Clarion and Belmond, IA is committed to comprehensive health care and the well-being of the community. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the flu vaccine, get in touch with us. Our knowledgeable, friendly staff will assist you as soon as possible.
Contact us for more information.
Citations: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/vaccinations.htm https://www.healthline.com/health/flu/importance-of-flu-shot https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/coldflu.htm https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.htm https://abcnews.go.com/Health/flu-season-flu-vaccine/story?id=58156433 https://brighamhealthhub.org/prevention/five-reasons-to-get-your-flu-shot https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/10-reasons-to-get-a-flu-shot