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Risks and Benefits of the Flu Shot

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 01:23 AM

Since flu viruses keep adapting, and new strains keep surfacing, taking the flu vaccine is the best way to fight the virus. But the flu vaccine does not save you from all influenza viruses. It is advisable to take the flu shot only when you have weighed its benefits against the risks.

Flu vaccines are available in different combinations depending on your age, immune status, and allergies.
The benefits of the flu vaccine translate into an effective prevention and protection from the flu, particularly for the people already under health risk, such as:
• People at a high risk of developing serious complications when they contract flu, or the people with cancer/on cancer treatment, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, kidney or liver diseases
• People with asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases
• Pregnant women
• Children younger than 5 (especially younger than 2), and people aged 65 and older
• Obese people
The risk of taking a flu vaccine is particularly high for patients with certain ailments. These people should consult a doctor before taking the vaccine shot.
• People allergic to eggs
• People with a history of reaction to the flu vaccine
• Children younger than 6 months
• People with a moderate/severe illness
• People with a history of Guillain–Barr√© syndrome 

The vaccine s
ide effects include soreness, redness, itching and swelling, fainting, headache, fever, nausea, runny nose, wheezing, and muscle ache and last one or two days. Serious risk may present itself in breathing difficulty, wheezing, hoarseness, hives, paleness, weakness, increased heartbeat, dizziness, swelling around the eyes or lips, and high fever, occurring within minutes to a few hours after the flu shot. Anyone having such reactions should seek medical attention immediately.

Although the flu shot does not make you catch flu, you might experience flu or flu-like symptoms because:
• You got infected either before or within two weeks of taking the vaccine. This is a window period, and the vaccine is not yet effective.
• Your flu symptoms are from a non-flu virus with similar symptoms.
• Your flu vaccine does not cover the infecting flu virus strain.  
• Your susceptibility owing to health or age factors

The risks of the high dose vaccine are not fully understood; flu vaccine may either give better flu protection through a better immune response or may overstimulate the immune system and result in more side effects.

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It is advisable to take the annual flu vaccine as recommended by the CDC only if its benefits outweigh the risks. A respiratory infection, influenza (the flu) can cause serious complications in young children, older adults, and people lacking immunity.
Tuesday, 17 December 2013 01:23 AM
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