After last year’s mild flu season, you may not be as eager to get your annual flu shot. Doctors do not recommend this, as they predict this flu season may prove to be much more severe for many Americans. It only takes one bad case of the flu to stop you in your tracks. While life can make us feel like we don’t have the time to get an annual flu shot, one quick injection or FluMist could save you a lot of pain and discomfort in the long run.
Last flu season was mild, perhaps due to the COVID-19 regulations still in place, but this season is predicted to be particularly harsh. In order to predict the severity of the United States’ flu season, scientists will look to the southern hemisphere because that area of the world experiences its flu season before we do. This year, the southern hemisphere experienced its worst flu season in the last five years, which does not bode well for the U.S. There are many factors that could’ve influenced the severity of this year’s flu season, including changing masking habits, a decreased trust in vaccinations, or simply a particularly nasty strain of the flu.
No matter the cause, one thing is pretty certain, you’re going to want a flu shot by the time flu season hits. Unlike other vaccines that only require one or two doses to provide long-lasting immunity from dangerous disease, the CDC recommends adults receive a flu shot annually. Influenza is a virus, like COVID-19, that mutates every year through a process called antigenic shift and drift. Every year, the flu virus moves the antigens around the outside of the cells, making the flu vaccine from the year before ineffective at preventing the flu during the next season. Currently, flu vaccines are grown in culture, which means it can take up to a year to get the next flu vaccine ready. Scientists look at what happened during the previous flu season and make their best, educated guess on which antigens to target.
One common fear associated with the flu shot is the idea that the shot might give you the flu. It’s not uncommon to experience temporary soreness, nausea, headache, or even fever. However, think about it this way: if you experience any of these mild side effects as a result of the flu shot, which is an injection of the dead virus, can you imagine how your body will react to the live virus? Anyone who’s experienced the flu can tell you, it’s not a great experience. People endure high fevers, extreme fatigue, severe cough, full-body aches, and even vomiting or diarrhea.
“I can always tell the difference between which children have been vaccinated and which ones haven’t when they come into my office with the flu. It definitely makes a difference in the severity of the case,” said Pediatrician, Carol M. Steiner, MD, FAAP of TPMG James River Pediatrics. One flu shot could be the difference between a simple headache and full-body aches and fever.
In order to optimize the success of your flu shot, it’s best to get your vaccine from late September to early October, that way it can last for six months and through the worst, if not all of the flu season. Don’t delay in getting your flu shot. Talk to a TPMG provider today about scheduling this year’s flu vaccine.
About Carol M. Steiner, MD, FAAP
TPMG board certified pediatrician, Carol M. Steiner, MD, FAAP has over 22 years of experience caring for patients from the first days of life to young adulthood. A premature infant herself, Dr. Steiner’s experience with a devoted pediatrician inspired her to enter the medical field. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology and earned her medical degree from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
TPMG welcomed Dr. Carol Steiner to TPMG James River Pediatrics in 2019.