“Oh no … my throat is starting to hurt and it is not because I snored last night. It’s been hurting all day!” You know the drill, first comes the sore throat, a sure warning that something is about to come … but what will it be this December 2012?
The next day, the answer came to me. A nasty cough rattled my chest and I could feel the fever mounting. I was achy, feeling weak, and my skin so sensitive just my shirt moving against my arm was uncomfortable. Sure felt like I had gotten the flu …
I got my flu shot though! Oh wait, the flu shot protects you against the three influenza viruses of the flu that research has shown would be more likely to stick around this flu season.
I make sure to get vaccinated each year because the strains of viruses that are around this year are not likely to be the same ones next year. Those sneaky viruses like to keep you on your toes!
But you know better than them because two weeks after getting your flu vaccine, your body has created the antibodies you need to protect you against those three influenza viruses in the vaccine.
Did you just say you don’t get your flu shot because the viruses in that syringe make you sick? Well, the Centers for Disease Control agrees with me on this one. If you have flu symptoms more than low-grade fever, aches, and soreness, redness, swelling at the injection site (usually lasting one to two days), it is not the flu shot that gave it to you.
Remember, it takes two weeks for your body to create those antibodies to protect you so if you rub your nose with your hand and that hand happens to have some viruses on it before you have given yourself time to create those miraculous antibodies, your body will not be prepared to fight it. Plus, the viruses that are within that syringe are long dead. There is just no way they can give you the flu. Sorry you can’t blame them for that one.
Now if you had said, “Sarah, that mist vaccine my pharmacist shot up my nostrils sure did not make me feel well.” I would have probably said, “Well that’s actually possible.” That’s only true because unlike the vaccine you get inside the shot, the ones in the mist vaccine are considered live attenuated.
What does that mean? It simply means that the three viruses within this mist are made weaker so that they can expose your body to the viruses without making you as sick as the flu itself would.
Your body can make those antibodies that will protect you from future infection from these three strains of viruses because you gave your body a chance to prepare itself.
Some side effects children can get from the mist vaccine include runny nose, headache, muscle aches, fever, and wheezing. Side effects adults get from this live attenuated vaccine include runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough. This is why this nasal spray vaccine is only recommended for healthy individuals ranging from 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
So I think I got the flu. Do you think I’ll get my flu shot next year? Absolutely! I’d rather get that little prick on the shoulder or that spray up my nose than feel this lousy for this long … I mean, really, wouldn’t you?
And if you haven’t gotten yours yet, now is the time! Flu season can actually start as early as October and last as long as May! Don’t forget your pharmacist knows a lot about the flu, not just your doctor so come chat with us (I’ll be one soon!) And promise me you’ll think twice before deciding to skip getting your flu shot!
Editor's Note: Sarah Le Clair wrote this article about the flu vaccine as part of a class assignment. She's a fourth-year pharmacy student from the University of California, San Francisco School of Pharmacy with an immunization certification.