The thought of being incapacitated for weeks on end suffering through the various effects of the flu is never an appealing prospect. But fortunately, before every flu season you can minimize your chances of becoming ill by getting the influenza vaccine, otherwise known as the “flu shot”.

The earlier in the season you are vaccinated the better your chances of preventing the virus from infecting your body. Flu season can start as soon as October and continue through May, therefore, the ideal time for vaccinations is early during October or November.

Remember, it will take approximately two weeks for the vaccine to become effective so you will still be vulnerable during that time. Of course, you can get vaccinated as late as December, or even later on, but naturally the sooner you are protected the easier prevention will be.

Types of Flu Vaccines

There are two types of vaccinations available for children and adults newly available each year. The vaccines contain various strains of the virus researchers deem most likely to be prevalent that particular season.

The first type is the traditional flu shot administered subcutaneously via a needle. The shot contains an inactive form of the virus but cannot cause the illness.

The second type of vaccine is administered quite differently than the first one. The FluMist influenza vaccination is a nasal spray which is used just like any other nasal spray. FluMist also contains a weakened form of the flu virus but is unlikely to cause flu-like symptoms although nasal congestion or fatigue sometimes occur.

The FluMist vaccine is recommended for healthy, non-pregnant adults up to the age of 50 and healthy children over the age of two.

Both types of vaccines cause the body to develop antibodies which provide protection from the virus. For some, this process may cause temporary fatigue and muscle aches but still does not actually cause influenza.

The flu vaccine is highly recommended for anyone prone to serious flu complications such as pneumonia or anyone at a high risk of getting the illness.

High risk groups include:

• Adults with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart or lung problems
• Anyone over the age of 50
• Anyone who lives in a nursing home
• Caregivers coming in contact with infants, young children, or others in high risk groups
• Children ages six months to 18 years
• Healthcare workers
• Women pregnant during flu season

There are some people in high risk groups that may not be able to be vaccinated without the chance for complications caused by certain medical conditions. For example, those who have or have had immune disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system, may not be able to get the vaccination.

Anyone with severe egg allergies should not get a flu shot as the vaccination is grown within eggs.

If you are unsure as to whether or not the vaccine is the right choice for you it is important to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider before making any decisions. They can answer questions and will be familiar with your medical history.

If you have had an allergic reaction to the influenza vaccination in the past you should talk to your doctor about your options this flu season. Also, if you are sick and have a fever you should wait to get the flu shot until you are feeling better. However, if you are mildly ill without a fever it is safe to get the shot as soon as necessary.

Side Effects

After the flu shot it is not uncommon to have some pain and or swelling in the arm. There may also be cold like symptoms such as body aches, headaches, sore throat, or a slight fever to contend with for a day or two afterward.

Side effects caused by the FluMist vaccination may vary from person to person and children may be affected differently than adults.

Children who use FluMist nasal spray may experience side effects including:

• Fever
• Headaches
• Muscle aches
• Nasal drip, congestion
• Vomiting

Adults using FluMist may experience symptoms such as:

• Headaches
• Nasal drip, congestion
• Sore throat

Keep in mind that the potential symptoms from the flu shot are far outweighed by the many benefits of being protected from the ravages of influenza with its many side effects. Also, the chances of experiencing serious symptoms and side effects is rather rare and if they were to occur, it would be evident within minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

Talk to your doctor and use your medical history and circumstances to determine whether or not you should be getting an annual influenza vaccination and when.

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