Influenza strikes millions every year, and it’s a potentially deadly viral infection. Unfortunately, too many in the general population tend to label any nausea and fever as “flu,” so few truly grasp the severity of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 200,000 people are hospitalized for influenza every year. Anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000 die per year, with an estimate balancing out around 35,000 deaths. Most of these deaths are among young children, the elderly, and/or those with immune suppression. When considering the pros and cons of getting your child a flu shot, it’s important to consider the risk impact of vaccination on every flu season.
Overview of the flu shot
The flu is actually thousands of different but similar viruses that yield similar symptoms. As it gets cold every year, influenza sees a resurgence in the population. Because the virus mutates readily and there are so many different strains, vaccinations depend heavily on epidemiologists’ recommendations. An epidemiologist has to examine all of the health data available and predict which strains are most likely to hit particular areas. That strain is then the subject of vaccinations.
Because children are so susceptible to the worst effects of flu, the influenza vaccine is especially recommended for all children six months and older, as well as for their caretakers. In addition, healthcare workers, those involved in elder care, and other such adults are strongly advised to get a flu shot. Most health service workers and daycare workers are required to get the shot, as well as schoolchildren without a specific exemption.
Impact of not getting the shot
The primary danger of not getting a flu shot is that you may then contract the flu. If you’re a healthy adult who does not work with children, you may opt not to get a shot and accept the risk of disease. Flu often strikes fast and hard. It causes bodily aches, nausea, vomiting, fever, dizziness, fatigue and chills. As it progresses, you may also develop a cough, stuffy or runny nose, trouble breathing, and other such issues. The first days of illness are usually the worst, and often preclude any other activity.
Pregnant women, children under 2 and individuals over 65 who contract the flu are most likely to need hospitalization. Encephalitis and meningitis are the primary severe risks, and require immediate treatment. Seizures and pneumonia may also result.
Potential side effects and drawbacks with the flu shot
While the vaccination is usually correct, it’s not 100 percent. Every now and then, strains hit out of season, or different strains than expected strike in a given area. During these years, the death toll tends to skyrocket with no peremptory immunity. That means that there is a slight chance that you could get the flu shot and that it won’t do any good, but this happens only rarely.
In most cases, the side effects of a flu shot include injection-site redness and/or soreness, a low-grade fever and some muscle aches and pains. Some children may experience nausea. Rarely, allergic reactions may occur that can cause serious problems. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t get the flu from getting a flu shot — the common symptoms are from a low-grade immune response to a killed virus, and are much milder than the actual flu.