Flu vaccine and side effects
Thinking about getting a flu jab this year? The influenza vaccine, or flu jab, is the best way to prevent the flu, and flu prevention should be a goal for everyone.
Each year in the UK about 600 people die from seasonal flu. This rises to around 13,000 during an epidemic. These statistics would decrease if more eligible people took advantage of the opportunity to prevent flu by getting a flu jab.
When should I get a flu jab?
Because the flu season may begin as early as October and run through to May, the best time to get a flu jab is in October or November. You can still get an influenza vaccine in December or later, but earlier may be more beneficial in preventing flu.
What is in the flu vaccine?
The most likely viruses to cause flu each year are identified in advance and a vaccine is then produced that closely matches them.
The influenza vaccine contains inactivated virus and is given as an injection. As it does not contain a live virus the flu vaccination cannot cause the flu.
What are some of the possible side effects of the flu jab?
You may experience soreness and/or swelling in your arm after getting a flu jab.
Some people have cold-like symptoms, including sniffles, headache, runny nose, sore throat, cough and body aches for a day or two after getting the flu jab. In some cases you may also experience a low-grade temperature.
It is important to note that the benefits of getting a flu jab far outweigh the risk of flu vaccine side effects.
How does the flu jab work to prevent flu?
The flu vaccine works by causing antibodies to develop in your body. These antibodies provide protection against infection from the flu virus. This antibody reaction may cause fatigue and muscle aches in some people.
Each year the flu vaccine contains several different kinds of the virus. The strains chosen are the ones that researchers believe are most likely to show up that year.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
If you are under 65 years old and healthy, you won’t need a flu jab as influenza, though it can be uncomfortable, is not normally a serious disease. An annual flu jab is recommended for certain high-risk individuals who are more prone to flu complications such as pneumonia.
People who should consider getting vaccinated each year are:
- Pregnant women - pregnancy can increase your risk of flu complications such as pneumonia.
- People 65 years or older
- People who live in nursing homes
- Anyone over six months of age with chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma, a long-term kidney or liver disease, diabetes or with any condition that weakens the immune system
- Anyone with lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
- Any person in close contact with someone in a high-risk group, such as the main caregiver of an elderly or disabled person
- a neurological condition eg. multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- a problem with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, , or if you’ve had your spleen removed.
- People who work in certain professions such as poultry workers