by Dr Michael Mol

A shot in the right direction

As winter sets in, Dr Mol talks to flu

A shot in the right direction.
Dr Mol discusses the flu shot as winter sets in

One out of four people will get the flu this year.

They will take an average of 2.5 days off work and spend another two or more weeks recovering – and that is just healthy adults.

Consider how many children will get the flu and the impact it will have on their school performance and attendance.

So do we wash our hands regularly, avoid touching our faces, sneeze into tissues, avoid touching door handles and hope that we get lucky this year or is there something more we can do that will almost guarantee we don’t get knocked down by influenza?

The answer is shots – not the kind that happen on the weekends, but the injectable kind.

Immunizations are important for adults as well as for children, and here's why: 

Your immune system helps your body fight germs by producing substances to combat them.

Once it does, the immune system 'remembers' the germ and can fight it again.

Vaccines contain germs that have been killed or weakened.

When given to a healthy person, the vaccine triggers the immune system to respond and build immunity.

Before vaccines, people became immune only by actually getting a disease and surviving it. Immunizations are an easier and less risky way to become immune.

So if you had an option to avoid getting the dreaded aches, pains and snottiness that accompany flu, would not you want to take it?

Instead of asking the usual question who should get the vaccine, it is better to ask who should not get the vaccine and if you’re not on the list below then get the jab.

Who shouldn’t get it: Babies younger than six months, those who are allergic to eggs or anyone who previously had an allergic reaction to the vaccination.

Also best to avoid it if you’re currently ill or if you have a bleeding disorder. As for the rest of you, go get it – it’s even safe during pregnancy.

I think it’ll be the best R60 you’ll spend on yourself in a while and if you have a medical aid, it’s likely that they’ll pay for it on your behalf.

You won’t even have to drop your trousers – the shot goes into your deltoid muscle through a tiny needle, that’s almost painless. 

Frequently asked questions answered:

So when will I be immune?

It takes the immune system about two to three weeks to produce sufficient quantities of specific antibodies against the flu strains in the vaccine.

Which means that the best time to be vaccinated against the flu is around the end of April, right before the flu season typically starts.

However, there is no cut-off date for flu vaccination; it can be given at any stage during the winter.

Can the vaccine give me the flu?

The flu vaccine ca not give you the flu. When you get a flu shot, you are not being injected with a whole virus – you are receiving an inactivated, or dead virus.

That means the part of the virus that can infect you and make you sick is turned off, but the part of the virus that stimulates your body to create antibodies is still on.

The body is antibodies will kill the flu virus should you come into contact with it later on.

Some people experience muscle aches and fever for a day or two after receiving a flu shot, but that is merely a side effect of your body's production of protective antibodies.

How effective is the vaccine?

No vaccine is 100% effective. Factors within any individual or relating to the vaccine may cause the vaccine not to take or not to provide full protection.

This is even more relevant of flu vaccines, as scientists have to predict which strains are more likely to cause disease each year.

However, studies have shown that protection from the vaccine in healthy adults is around 80% when the strains are well matched. No more days off work for you!

Interestingly – if just a child is immunised, but not the other people in his household, the likelihood of others in the house contracting flu is reduced by 40%.

So if you’re too afraid to get the injection you can always send your kids to get it and you will cut your chances of getting flu by half.

 

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