Is the flu shot right for you?

It’s that favorite time of the year for our immune systems – flu shots.

Flu season is already upon us and if you haven’t noticed, stores are already displaying advertisements for flu immunizations.

Flu immunizations have a certain stigma about them due to misconceptions. Sometimes it’s just the fact that it is a big, sharp, pointy needle that scares us the most. As a nursing student and former Medical Assistant, I have received and injected countless flu shots. I have heard all the concerns about this immunization and I would like to clear a few things up to make sure we all have the proper information available so that we can stay flu free!

Flu shots are available as injections or nasal mist. Most people believe that the flu shot will cause the flu because we are injecting our bodies with the flu. This is the most misunderstood theory. The Center for Disease Control does a great job in clarifying this on its website. The flu shot contains inactivated flu viruses that are not infectious. When this inactivated virus enters our body, our immune system reads it and stores it in a file as malicious software. When the real flu virus tries to invade our bodies, our immune system is ready and sends out our troops (white blood cells) to fight and kill them.

This is the same for the nasal mist that, perhaps, receives the worst attention because it is known as a “live“ virus. This “live“ virus is known as attenuated, which means it is weak. It has no real power and once it is injected into our bodies, the warmth of your nasal cavity kills the weakened virus. It is stored and downloaded so your body is ready to fight the real flu virus.

If you get sick after the flu immunization, it is not the actual flu that you are suffering. Minor side effects of the shot are very subtle and cause no real harm such as a runny nose, headache, muscle aches, cough, nasal congestion or a low grade fever, and they will subside in a matter of days. There may also be some soreness or redness at the injection site. These side effects are not the flu.

If you had the flu, you can expect to suffer from severe muscle aches, extreme fatigue, high fevers, coughing and runny nose. Children and the elderly get it worse since they have weaker immune systems. The flu can progress to severe systems such as difficulty breathing, chest pains, vomiting and/or diarrhea which can cause dehydration or even death – mainly with the elderly. Symptoms such as these involve urgent care. If you would like to look up flu and cold systems, you can refer to the Web MD website at

Some people believe the flu immunization is a waste of time because you cannot possibly prevent all strains from making you sick. In hindsight, that may be true but there are many manufacturers of the flu immunizations that make sure the most deadly of flu viruses are prevented each year. These places include MedImmune, Sanfoni Pasteur, Glaxo Smith and Kline and Novartis.

I asked around campus to see who has received the immunization and if they hadn’t, I wanted to know why. Most of them lacked the education about where to get them and worried about cost. The flu immunization is found at most stores now. Even if you do not carry insurance, the flu shot usually runs about $20-$35. This is better than the cost of suffering from the flu. Being sick can be quite costly because you may miss work, you’re paying copays for a doctor visit and dealing with the cost of medication. The flu spreads quickly and you may be paying money for sick relatives as well.

If you work in a medical field, the flu immunization is now required and available free. If you have children, free flu immunizations are given by Flu Free Quad Cities in schools. Make sure to check your children’s schools for information as well as your child’s back pack. A lot of informational forms get lost in back packs and without a signed form, your child cannot get the free flu shot. If you’re insured, all health insurances are mandated to cover such immunizations. If you have Tricare through the Military, cost if covered for free at participating pharmacies or physician offices. Don’t delay. Flu season can last well into February.

Contributed by Lupe Eissens, Guest Writer