According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 5% to 20% of Americans contract the flu every year. Over 200,000 people are hospitalized from the virus, and about 36,000 die yearly. These numbers could be significantly reduced if people adhered to the recommended guidelines for receiving vaccinations. Following is some helpful information about the flu vaccine.
Asthma and the Flu Vaccine
In an article entitled Adults with Asthma Should Receive Flu Vaccination, the CDC reports, Adults with asthma are at high risk of developing complications after contracting the influenza virus, yet most adults with asthma do not receive an annual flu vaccination. Respiratory infections, such as influenza, are much more serious in people who suffer from asthma because these infections are more likely to lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease. Therefore, it is highly recommended that, as long as the general guidelines (see below) are met, people with asthma receive a flu shot. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician.
Allergies and the Flu Vaccine
Those with allergies to eggs must take extra precautions when considering a flu vaccine. Because the viruses used in the vaccine are grown in hens eggs, individuals with a severe egg allergy may have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. However, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), if a person is high-risk for flu complications and has an egg allergy, there is still the possibility that a vaccine may be given, based on a specialists evaluation of the risks/benefits of administering the vaccine. The vaccine may also be administered in an allergists office, where emergency treatment may be administered if necessary.
Who in General Should Get a Flu Vaccine?
Although it is good for anyone who wishes to avoid coming down with the flu to get a flu shot, the CDC offers the following guidelines regarding who should receive the flu vaccine:
- Children ranging from 6 months of age through age 18
- Pregnant women
- People 50 of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers, household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu, and household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
Who Should Not Get a Flu Vaccine?
The following people should not be vaccinated without consulting a physician:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination
- People who developed Guillain-Barr syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine
- Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group)
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated)
Two Kinds of Flu Vaccines and How They Work
You may receive the flu vaccine in one of two ways: a shot, or a nasal spray. The flu shot contains an inactivated (killed) vaccine, and is safe for administration to anyone who meets the general guidelines of receiving the flu vaccine. The nasal-spray flu vaccine (also called LAIV live attenuated flu vaccine or FluMist is approved for healthy people between 2 and 49 who are not pregnant.
Each vaccine contains three influenza viruses two A viruses and one B virus. The specific viruses contained in the vaccine are adjusted yearly based on surveillance and estimates of which viruses are likely to circulate. Antibodies against the viruses present in the vaccine begin to provide protection from these viruses about two weeks after the vaccine is administered.
Side effects of the two types of vaccines are slightly different as well. The flu shot may cause soreness, redness or swelling at the site of the shot; a low-grade fever; and achiness. LAIV vaccines, on the other hand, may cause a runny nose, headache, sore throat, and a cough. Children may also experience wheezing, vomiting, and muscle aches from the LAIV vaccine.
Experts recommend getting the flu vaccine as early as late September, and definitely by October and November. Remember, it takes two weeks for the antibodies to form so that you have protection against the virus, and the sooner you obtain the vaccine, the less likely you are to contract the virus.
To find a flu clinic near you, use the American Lung Associations Flu Clinic Locator.