Many feel October is the ideal time to get a flu shot. Some people refuse to get one, or prefer to wait until later before getting one. Some of them have good reasons, others are basing it on unreliable informaton. I have noticed the government’s CDC website and other news websites have posted question and answer pages on this topic. So I looked them over and am passing along this information to you. One question was: Can the flu shot make me sick? No, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. The vaccine is made by one of two different methods. One way uses killed flu viruses. The body will see these as invaders and start resisting them. It builds up immunity. When the real thing comes along, it recognizes it, and is able to block the illness. The second method doesn’t use the virus at all. It’s referred to as recombinant influenza vaccine. That means scientists have made DNA to resemble the flu virus. When injected, the body learns this is something to fight against. Some people do get soreness at the injection site. It can get red, swollen or tender. That’s because the body has seen the vaccine and is building defenses against it. It can also cause a low grade fever, headache and muscle soreness. It’s temporary, and usually goes away in less than 2 days. It’s because the body is learning new defenses in case the real virus comes. Another question: Can the nasal flu spray give me the flu? It’s not likely. The nasal spray uses a weakened virus. It can give mild symptoms in the cool atmosphere of the nose, but will not do that in warmer places like the lungs or inside the body. A person getting the spray vaccine may have a runny nose, and maybe even a cough, but it is not the flu itself. Question: Which is better? The shot or the nasal spray? The CDC says it really doesn’t matter. This year, the CDC recommends healthy children between 2 and 8 years old get the nasal spray. If none is available, then the shot is fine. I went recently with my mother in law to get a flu shot. She’s one tough lady, at 94. I’m a lot younger, never mind how old! The nurse said she was giving each of us a different type of shot. My mother in law was getting a stronger shot, I got a weaker one. That was interesting! Question: What’s the harm in not getting a shot and getting the flu instead? Well, the flu can be serious. It can be worse for young children. It’s also worse for older people. People with health issues such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes or something else that weakens the body can be hit hard. Some get seriously ill with the flu. Some end up in the hospital or even die. From the year 1976 to 2007, it varied from year to year. Some years 3,000 got sick, I mean 3,000 died, other years 49,000 died. In that period of time, 200,000 were hospitalized. Is it worth it? Question: Why do people need to get a shot every year? It’s recommended that everyone 6 months and older should get the shot yearly. That’s because the virus changes. Some years it’s the “A” strain, other years it’s the “Hong Kong” or “Swine” type. There are various types of flu. The vaccine is made to match the type of flu that seems to be prevalent that year. If the strain is the same as the previous year, people still need to get the shot. That’s because last year’s shot has lost strength and is no longer effective. If it’s a different strain, the body is defenseless without a shot. The injection helps the body be ready to fight against the flu virus. Question: Are allergic reactions possible with the flu shot? Yes, it does happen, though it is rare. Those who are allergic to eggs shouldn’t have the shot. Eggs are used to grow the virus used in making the vaccine. Other allergies are rare but can be very serious. Allergic reactions can occur within a few minutes or a few hours of getting the shot. They can be life threatening. There are shots to help counteract the allergy. A person shouldn’t get the flu shot again after having an allergic reaction. Question: Why do some people get what looks like the flu after getting a shot? There are several reasons why that happens. There are other viruses besides the flu, called rhinoviruses, similar to the cold virus. The flu shot is for the flu only, not these other types of viruses. These viruses can cause a flu-like illness that isn’t actually the flu. Another reason is the shot doesn’t afford instant immunity. It takes two weeks for the body to build up immunity to the flu virus. So if someone got a shot, then was exposed to the flu the next day, the body isn’t ready for it, and the person will get sick from the flu. By the same token, getting a shot the day after being exposed will not help, the shot is too late and the person will get sick. Also, remember I said the vaccine has to match the type of flu? The person could have a shot for one type of flu, and be exposed to another type. He or she will get sick because the vaccine is not for that type. One last reason is the body could have a compromised immune system, or the person is over 65, and the regular shot wouldn’t be sufficient. Remember, I said my mother in law got a stronger shot than I. Older people need a different shot. Without it, they’ll get sick. Question: Wouldn’t two shots be better than one? No, it wouldn’t help. One shot is all that’s needed. Question: October is too early. Why not get it later, so it doesn’t wear off too soon? October is really the best time to get the shot. You can still get the shot later on, in November, December or January. As long as the flu is still circulating, you can still get the shot. The flu usually peaks around January. As long as the flu is still going around, it’s fine to get the shot. Just remember, it takes time, two weeks, for the shot to take effect. The body has to build up an immunity. So the earlier a person gets the shot, the better. Usually shots remain effective until the end of the flu season. Older people are given stronger shots because otherwise, the effects don’t last. Question: If a person is pregnant or has a disease compromising the immune system, should a doctor be consulted first before getting the flu shot? No, it’s ok to go ahead and get the shot. The nasal spray is not recommended for pregnant women. The shot is better. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to it in the past, don’t get the shot. If you’re currently ill with a fever, wait until you’re better before getting the shot. If you’ve ever had Guillain-Barre, ask your doctor first. Some people have gotten it after getting a flu shot. In that case, flu shots should never be given again. Question: Will the flu shot prevent stomach flu? Usually the flu is much like a cold. There is a runny nose, cough, and respiratory discomfort. Digestive symptoms are not usually present. Sometimes children will get an upset stomach and diarrhea. Older people might also have those symptoms occasionally. The flu is not an intestinal disease, it’s a respiratory one. Most people with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have something else. They may have eaten bad food, or gotten a totally different virus. I hope this has clarified things for you. It’s your decision whether to get a shot or not.