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More helpful advice for your annual flu shot

November 10, 2015
older woman receives annual flu vaccine from her doctor

If you followed your doctor's orders this fall, chances are you went ahead and got your influenza vaccination. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this annual shot is your best bet to avoid the dreaded flu. The vaccine works by exposing you to three, sometimes four, unique strains of the flu. This is done to reduce the severity of any flu virus you might end up catching this season. After the shot, though, you may have questions about a number of topics, which might have an effect on your greater health. Here are a few answers you might find helpfulin your ongoing war against influenza:

"It takes two weeks for the flu shot to begin working."

How long does it take for the flu shot to go into effect?
According to the CDC, approximately two weeks. In that time, your immune system will develop the proper antibodies to fight off the flu virus. As such, you are just as susceptible to the flu in those 14 days and should continue any standard flu-protection protocol, like washing your hands and covering your mouth and nose. Be aware, though, that the two weeks is a not definitive timespan, and the vaccine may work faster or slower depending on a number of factors.

How long does the vaccine last?
Unlike other vaccines, the flu shot is temporary, and that's why so many physicians suggest getting a booster every year. Speaking with The New York Times, Dr. John J. Treanor said that boosters may last longer in younger people. However, older folks or those with compromised immune systems, may need to get two shots per year. According to Treanor, it's not uncommon for someone to receive the vaccine in October and have it lose most of its effectiveness by March or April.

What are the common side effects of a flu shot?
While the flu shot doesn't actually give you the flu, there are certain accompanying side effects, as the CDC noted. Some individuals, regardless of age, might experience a low-grade fever, muscle aches, and swelling or redness around the injection site. There are also several unique side effects to the nasal spray. In children, these include wheezing, headaches, vomiting and fever. Meanwhile, many adults who receive the nasal spray often complain of runny noses, sore throats and a persistent cough.

"A vaccine protects you from certain flu-related complications."

How effective is the flu vaccine?
It is still possible to get the flu even with an annual vaccination. Asthe CDC explained, the overall effectiveness of the vaccine changes from season to season. In essence, you are never 100 percent protected, and that aforementioned rate is usually based on the virus' unique genetic makeup that year. Several factors influence whether you get sick, including your age, overall health condition and how well the vaccine you received "matches" the viral strain that's already circulating. The vaccine helps reduce your chances of getting ill, lessens the time you're actually sick and can even protect you from certain flu-related complications.

When you decide to get your flu shot, it's a good idea to head to a nearby CareWell Urgent Care location. With offices across the East Coast, CareWell's team of dedicated physicians offer fast, friendly and virtually pain-free vaccination experience.

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