Still Talkin' About It: The Flu
December 18, 2015
In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of getting a flu shot or nasal spray as well as ways to help prevent getting the virus in the first place. Now let’s talk about the flu vaccine and antiviral medications if you do indeed, despite your best efforts, get the flu.
Who should get a flu shot?
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine, especially those people who are at high risk of serious complications from getting the flu. Those include children younger than 5 and particularly under 2 years of age, adults 65 and over, pregnant women, residents of long-term care facilities, adults and children with asthma, and others. Your physician can tell you if you’re at a higher risk of complications due to a specific condition.
Who should not get a flu shot?
Babies younger than 6 months of age and people with life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or ingredients in the flu vaccine (e.g. gelatin or antibiotics) should not be given a flu shot.
Note: people with a non-life-threatening allergy to eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine can talk with their doctor about their allergy and the appropriateness of a flu shot for them.
The nasal spray vaccine is not approved for people that fit into numerous categories including younger than 2 and over 50 years of age, and pregnant women. Also, the nasal spray vaccine may increase wheezing in people of any age with asthma and therefore may not be recommended by their doctor.
It takes about 14 days after getting the vaccine for your body to develop the antibodies needed to fight the virus. That’s why getting the vaccine early in “the season” (sounds like we’re talking about fashion or hunting!) is very important.
With that said, you can still get the flu even if you received the vaccine prior to those first two weeks. There are several factors that make that a possibility including the age and overall health of the vaccinated person and the similarity of the particular flu virus being passed around the community compared to the vaccine that was given.
“However,” as stated on the CDC.gov website, “it’s important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. Such protection is possible because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can provide some protection (called cross-protection) against different but related influenza viruses.”
If you get the vaccine and you wash your hands like crazy and you remember to not lick your fingers or bite your nails and you’ve made Disinfectant your middle name and you still come down with the flu – now what?
Because influenza is a virus (a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, to be exact), antibiotics don’t help – they kill bacteria, not viruses. But antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu, Rapivab, and Relenza can reduce the severity of the symptoms and/or shorten the number of “the worst days” of the illness by blocking a protein that flu viruses need to multiply. The medication must be taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms in order to work and is available by prescription only. Your doctor will decide which of the antiviral meds and what dosage is right for you. These medications have also been approved by the FDA for some preventive uses as well but they are not a substitute for the vaccine.
As we said in our previous blog post, there are generally numerous convenient opportunities to get a flu shot or nasal spray, so make it a priority. For those of you in the vicinity of our Rapid Med offices in Double Oak or The Colony, feel free to call, schedule online, or walk in for your flu vaccine or to discuss the use of an antiviral medication today. Rapid Med is open seven days a week and can address all of your urgent care, primary care, preventive, and occupational care needs.