Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. But is the vaccine safe for every person at every age? Who should get a flu shot?
The flu is a contagious, respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Different from the cold virus, which appears slowly, the flu virus arrives abruptly causing achiness, fever, headaches, and chest discomfort in addition to the standard cold symptoms. For older adults, pregnant women, young children, and individuals with asthma and certain chronic illnesses, the flu can progress to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections. In more serious cases, it can trigger other complications like lung damage, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure.
Who Should Receive the Flu Shot?
Therefore, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for every person over the age of six months, especially including the populations mentioned above.
Individuals younger than six months or with a severe allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine should not get the flu shot. According to the CDC, the following people should consult with a doctor before receiving the vaccine.
- Any person who has had a severe allergy in the past to eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine
- Any person who has had Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)
- Any person that is not feeling well
Every season varies in terms of the severity and duration of the virus. Each year, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully monitor the safety of the various vaccines used to prevent the flu.
While a person can experience mild side effects after receiving the vaccine, it does not cause the flu. Common side effects include soreness and redness from the shot, headaches, nausea, muscle aches, and fever. On a very rare occasion, the flu shot can cause fainting.
Vaccinating from age six months is highly recommended for flu prevention. It is especially important for those at higher risk. Even if the flu season has begun, experts still suggest getting the vaccination.