Dr. John Ropp, a family medicine physician practicing in Hartsville, answers some of the most common questions about influenza vaccinations.
Q: Why should I get a flu vaccine?
A: Influenza (the flu) is a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and even death in severe cases. Although flu seasons do vary in severity, the range of deaths in the U.S. attributed to the flu are from 3,000 to 49,000 annually – mostly in the older population. The flu is a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics. The vaccine helps protect yourself, and sometimes more importantly, others who you come in contact with during the flu season.
Q: Should my children get a flu vaccine?
A: Yes. Everybody 6 months old and older should be vaccinated annually, with very few exceptions.
Q: Who shouldn’t get the flu vaccine?
A: Very few cases. Those who have had a severe allergic reaction to the shot, severe allergic reaction to eggs, moderate to severe present illness, or those with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome after receiving a flu shot in the past.
Q: I haven’t gotten my flu vaccine yet. Is it too late?
A: No. Flu season generally occurs between October and late winter, so the ideal time is October. However, since the flu season is long, getting immunized any time during the season is recommended. Flu activity generally peaks in January.
Q: How soon does the vaccine take effect?
A: Two weeks following vaccination.
Q: Is the flu nasal mist better than the vaccine?
A: No. Use of the nasal vaccination is an option for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 and who are not pregnant.
Q: What are the most common side effects of the flu vaccine?
A: Common side effects of the nasal spray are mild headache, runny nose, sore throat, and cough that may last a day or two. Side effect of the shot include mild soreness, low grade fever and some muscle aches.
Q: I heard the flu vaccine can give you the flu. Is this true?
A: No. Neither the nasal spray nor the shot can give you the flu since they have either no virus, inactivate virus or severely weakened virus formulas. Any real or perceived illness that follows immunization is either mild side effects or another illness that was already beginning.
Q: Which months do you see the most flu cases?
A: The flu season generally lasts from October to late winter/early spring with peak activity in January.