“Hit Me With Your Best Shot! Fire Away!”
Sorry, this isn’t a Pat Benatar tribute, rather a corny way to introduce my next blog topic. I hear this question every year…”Are you getting your flu shot?” To dodge the question I usually reply with a conspiracy theory that makes people slowly edge in the other direction, wishing they hadn’t asked in the first place.
Some people embrace the flu shot every year, others take a more negative approach.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a flying flu.”
The flu shot…what is it?
The flu shot is designed to introduce common viral strains into your system so that your body can develop antibodies for them, which stay in your system for about a year.
As a little background for those that slept through health class in school…Antibodies are your body’s way of fighting off infection. Once your body successfully fights off an infection, antibodies stick around for a while preventing you from being re-infected by the same strain.
The flu shot is administered in two different forms, via needle and via mist. What is the difference between the two? I’m glad you asked.
Injections via needle are usually your dead strains of viruses, which in turn poses, in theory, no risk to those being inoculated. Your body still interprets them as foreign bodies however and will create antibodies to fight them off.
It’s still undecided if antibodies are created via white blood cells or John Rambo.
The mist is sprayed through the nose and is usually active strains of viruses, which may produce side effects and symptoms in those receiving it. However, the strains are engineered to be weak so that your body is able to fight them off. Research shows that the more expensive mist is a better deterrent from getting the flu in the future, though it is only recommended for certain age brackets that are in good health.
What virus strains are covered under the flu shot? This is a tricky question as the list changes every year based on what scientists and doctors determine are the biggest threat based on current trends and locations. Some parts of the world receive different strains in their vaccinations.
The FDA agreed on the following for the 2010–2011 season in the US: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, an A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus, and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
Will you get sick taking the flu shot in either form? In theory, the needle injection only involves dead forms of the viruses and your chance of getting sick is nill while the mist increases your chance of getting sick due to actively weak strains being involved. However, body chemistry is a funny thing. Everyone’s bodies are wired differently and thus react differently to various forms of medicine. If you’ve ever been to the doctor and heard them say, “We’ll keep trying until we find a brand that works”, it’s because they don’t know what will work due to that unknown body chemistry factor.
Tylenol isn’t working? Try Paxil, I guess?
Should you get the flu shot? That’s ultimately up to you. Some feel comforted knowing they have a better chance of being protected by the more troublesome strains. Some live out their entire lives without ever receiving one. One thing to keep in mind, the flu shot is a not a cure-all stopgap. There are less common strains out there not covered under the flu shot that may get you sick anyway.
On a personal note, my son received the flu shot this year and did not get sick from it. I received it for the first time this year and while I felt…off/drained for a day or two afterwards I wasn’t displaying any symptoms like a sore throat, a cough, or a congested nose. It did pinch and my arm was sore for a few days afterwards.
Here I am, getting my flu shot.
My personal recommendation is to make sure you are healthy when getting it and to make sure you take it easy for a few days afterwards accompanied by a good night’s sleep. I’m not a doctor so take those recommendations with a grain of salt, but if you ever wanted an excuse to go to bed early for a change, this just might be your ticket to freedom.