Morning Rounds: Too early for the flu shot?

NORFOLK, Va. - You have probably seen signs in your corner drug store  urging you to get your flu shots now, but how early is too early?

News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light stopped by to share his advice on flu shots.

Is it too early to get the flu shot?  

It is never too early to receive the flu shot as we cannot accurately predict when the influenza season will begin. The flu season usually begins in October, but it can begin as early as September.

Should we wait until closer to flu season, or is it okay to get it now?

The current recommendation is to get the flu shot when it is available in your area. The flu shot will last through the season.  Just remember that it takes at least two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect and give you protection.  It is never too early to get a flu shot, but it can be too late.

Should you get the flu vaccine if you are sick?

If you have a fever, you should wait until your fever is gone before getting a flu shot. The flu shot is not contraindicated with seasonal allergy flair ups and other mild illness symptoms. It is best to go case by case, checking with your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about receiving the flu shot.

 Does the flu shot actually give you the flu?

The flu shot cannot actually give you influenza because it is not a live virus. The vaccine only has proteins that your body will recognize that are very close to proteins found on the influenza virus.  Occasionally the vaccine will cause a low-grade fever, headache, or generalized body aches.  These symptoms usually go away within 24 hours and are the result of your immune system reacting to the vaccine proteins.

Does the flu shot actually prevent the influenza virus?

Every year scientists at the CDC research the different strains of viruses that are active and the probability of their spread and then formulate the ingredients that will compose the influenza vaccine for the upcoming year. The science is not 100 percent accurate, but technology does offer an extremely close prediction.

Who should get the flu shot?

 

In general, every one should be vaccinated against influenza unless their doctor directly contraindicated the vaccination.  The elderly, children six months and older, and pregnant should especially get the flu shot.