This year's flu season has been a particularly concerning one, filling our news feeds with alerts on alarming death counts and widespread diagnoses. The flu can seem pretty scary, which is why people might still be considering a flu shot if they haven't gotten one yet. If you're wondering whether you want to get the shot or not, you're most likely hesitating based on concerns of how the flu shot may affect your body.
In general, the question about whether or not to get a flu vaccination can be a pretty personal one. After all, there are plenty of people who don't believe vaccinations are an efficient or healthy way to prevent something like a flu in the first place.
With that said, it's worth nothing that it is still the official stance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that flu vaccinations are a suggested preventative measure during flu season. Moreover, according to the CDC, recent research argues that a flu shot is likely between 40 and 60 percent effective in reducing the risk of contracting the illness, but these stats can fluctuate every year, depending on how the shot works against the latest strain of the virus.
The flu season can extend as late as May in some instances, so it's definitely not too late to get a flu shot.
In order to help you make your most informed decision about whether or not to get a flu shot, Elite Daily spoke with Dr. Mia Finkelston, a board-certified family physician who treats patients virtually via the telehealth app LiveHealth Online, on how the shot affects your body, and what types of symptoms you can expect in the aftermath.
"Vaccines like the flu shot are similar to a boot camp or a training camp of sorts for your immune system," Dr. Finkelston explains. "By getting vaccinated, you are preparing your body to fight the disease, in this case the influenza virus, without getting the disease itself."
Vaccines shouldn't scare you, Dr. Finkelston notes, and you're not going to get the actual flu from the shot itself, which is a pretty common misconception. "This is not what happens at all," she confirms. "What does happen is that 10 to 14 days after getting inoculated, your body starts to produce antibodies, and some people will feel tired, slightly achy, and may even get low-grade fevers." However, Dr. Finkelston assures that these symptoms pass "relatively quickly."
Aside from the low-grade fever, other short-term (and totally normal) symptoms following a flu shot include aches and pains and mild fatigue.
Again, all of this is nothing to freak out over, and it shouldn't scare you away from the flu shot itself, since plenty of people feel nothing at all after the fact. I personally got the flu shot a month ago and forgot I'd even done so a few days later, until someone pointed out the bandage on my arm.
The only time you should speak to a medical professional in the wake of a flu shot is if you start to see a full-body rash spreading, or have shortness of breath. Otherwise, Dr. Finkelston advises you to stay home, because going to the hospital will likely just expose you to more germs and increase your chances of actually getting sick.
Of course, getting the flu shot doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu itself.
If you think you might be getting the actual flu, pay attention to your symptoms, and the speed with which they start to come on.
The biggest indicator for a flu, according to Dr. Finkelston, is how quickly you start to feel under the weather. "Colds typically ease in," she tells Elite Daily. The flu, on the other hands, "comes on quickly and feels as if you're getting hit by a truck," she explains. Dead-ringer flu symptoms include a high-grade fever, aches and pains, nausea and diarrhea, and terrible headaches.
If you think you might have the flu, it's definitely in your best interest to contact your doctor ASAP, get the treatment you need, and stay home until you feel better so you can recover as quickly as possible and avoid the risk of infecting anyone you know. Otherwise, to keep yourself safe and healthy, get plenty of sleep, listen to your body, and as always, wash your hands as much as you can!