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Elude the Flu

Don’t get it. Don’t spread it.

by Richard W. Honsinger, MD, MACP, FAAAAI, and
Rosa Linda Tarango, BA, BS

Allergy and Asthma image
Consider getting the flu shot – it’s a lot easier than getting the flu!

I have asthma. Do I need a flu vaccine?
Yes! Although the flu (influenza) vaccine is not 100-percent effective against infection, it drastically reduces the chance of getting influenza. Adults with asthma are at high risk of developing complications after getting the influenza virus, yet most adults with asthma do not receive an annual flu vaccination.

Symptoms of uncomplicated influenza include fever, headache, fatigue, sore throat, dry cough, muscle aches, and rhinitis. In addition, children may experience nausea, vomiting, and earache. More serious complications may also develop, especially in those with asthma who are more susceptible to pneumonia and other chronic lung problems.

The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and all asthmatics are encouraged to get it as part of their routine annual care.

Can I get the flu from the vaccine?
No. The flu vaccine is inactivated (killed), which means it cannot cause infection. Flu vaccine manufacturers kill the viruses used in the vaccine during the process of making the vaccine, and batches of flu vaccine are tested to make sure they are safe. According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, rare symptoms include fever, muscle pain, and feelings of discomfort or weakness. If these problems occur, they are very uncommon and usually begin soon after the shot and last one to two days.

Why do some people still get sick after getting the vaccine?
There are several reasons why someone may get sick even after being vaccinated. It takes two weeks for the body to gain protection after being vaccinated. A person exposed to influenza shortly after being vaccinated is at risk of contracting the illness. Get your flu shot early to make sure you are protected. People may also get sick from a different virus that causes flu-like symptoms, or they may be exposed to a virus that is not included in the vaccine.

Even so, the shot can lessen illness severity and is especially important for people at high risk for serious flu-related complications (such as asthmatics, senior citizens, and pregnant women) and the close-contacts of those individuals (caretakers and nurses).

Before being vaccinated, talk with your doctor if you have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination in the past, or if you have had the rare Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Viruses for the flu shot are grown in eggs, so an allergist should be consulted before vaccinating children with severe egg allergy.

Can I take the nasal vaccine instead of the shot?
The nasal vaccine also contains a small amount of egg protein, and it is only approved for people ages 2 to 49. The package insert warns against giving it to children with asthma, a recent wheezing episode, or immunodeficiency. You will want to consult your doctor or your allergist if this applies to you.

 

Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, www.aaaai.org.

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2010.