10 FAQs about the Flu Vaccine Answered by Dr. Chen

In addition to hearing sleigh bells jingling this time of year, we start to hear some sniffing, coughing, and other signs of illness wherever we go. We know you want to keep yourself and your family healthy. Since there seems to be a lot of talk about the flu vaccine as soon as people start to get sick, we decided to take some of the most common questions to an expert to understand what the flu shot is, what it does and doesn’t do, and how it might help keep you healthy this year. Dr. Joyce Chen, Family Medicine Physician and part of the Little Company of Mary Medical Group, answers your most common flu shot questions below.

1. Why should people get a flu shot?Chen
The flu can cause serious illness and complications requiring hospitalization, and even lead to death.

2. Who should get a flu vaccine?
Everyone 6 months old and older! But especially pregnant women, children 6 months to 5 years old, those 65 years old and older, healthcare workers, and those with chronic medical problems like diabetes, asthma, heart disease.

3. Who should not?
If you have a serious illness or fever, wait until you have recovered. For those with an egg allergy, ask your healthcare provider—egg allergy is not a definite contraindication, depending on the severity of the allergy.

4. How does a flu shot work?
The flu vaccine causes the body to build up proteins called antibodies that protect against infection caused by the viruses in the vaccine. This process takes up to 2 weeks.

5. Does the flu vaccine change every year? Why?
Yes. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the 3 or 4 flu viruses that are predicted by experts to be most common.

6. What does the flu shot protect against?
The 3 common flu viruses: Influenza A (H1N1), Influenza A (H3N2), and Influenza B. Some of the flu shots also protect against an additional B virus.

7. Can you still get a flu after you’ve gotten a flu vaccine?
Yes. There are many different strains of the flu virus, and the flu vaccine only protects against the common 3 or 4 viruses. However, the vaccine can help the body build up protection against similar flu strains so that if you do get another flu virus, the symptoms should not be as severe.

8. Can the flu vaccine give someone the flu?
No! The shot is made with the inactivated or weakened flu virus. For those that get sick after the vaccine, there can be a few explanations. After the vaccine is given, it takes the immune system 2 weeks to build up protection against the 3 to 4 flu strains. So if someone gets infected within those 2 weeks, the body has not developed the response to prevent the illness. Also, if someone gets infected with another flu strain that is not in the vaccine, flu symptoms can still persist. There are other viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms, so it’s important to remember that the flu vaccine only protects against certain strains of the flu.

9. Are there any health side effects?
The most common side effects are related to the injection site: redness, soreness, tenderness, and swelling. Some people might also experience a low-grade fever, headache, or muscle aches. These reactions are due to the immune system reacting to a foreign substance entering the body. These symptoms usually last for a few days at most and are a lot less severe than the symptoms of the flu illness.

10. What additional ways can people lower their risk of getting the flu?
Stay away from sick people. Try to maintain a strong immune system—eat healthy, stay hydrated, wash your hands regularly, and get enough sleep. If you smoke, try to cut down.

If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, it’s not too late. You can either make an appointment with Dr. Chen to get your flu shot for the entire family (from 6 months old to 100!) or you can also visit one of our outpatient care centers listed below for a walk-in flu shot.

Dr. Joyce Chen

4901 West 79th Street, Suite 10
Burbank, IL 60459
708.422.7100

Immediate Care Centers

Care Station East
5660 West 95th Street
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
708.499.2273
Hours:
Monday through Thursday – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Outpatient Care Center/Care Station West
6700 West 95th Street
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
708.974.7600
Hours:
Monday through Thursday – 8a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Get your flu shot today!

Photo Credit: MissMessie via Compfight cc

 

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