It’s starting to get chilly in Michigan, which doctors and pharmacists will tell you means one thing: Flu season is upon us. Flu season, which is when flu viruses spread at higher rates than normal, typically starts in early October and can last until May. The best defense against the virus is taking precaution with a flu shot.
There are a few types of flu vaccines you should know about. The traditional flu shot, known as the trivalent flu vaccine, protects against two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. The other type of flu vaccine, quadrivalent, protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The Centers for Disease Control doesn’t recommend one over the other, so be sure to talk with your primary care provider to decide which option is best for you.
You can also choose between getting a flu shot or the newer nasal spray. The flu shot contains inactivated influenza viruses while the nasal spray contains a live, weakened virus (it isn’t able to survive in your body once it leaves your nose, so you won’t get sick). The nasal spray has been proven most effective for children between two and eight years old but is not recommended for those over the age of 50.
Before you head to your doctor, clinic or local pharmacy to get your shot, there a few other things to know:
- If you have a fever, it’s best to wait to get the flu shot. However, it is fine to get a flu shot if you are feeling sick without a fever.
- You may experience mild side effects from the shot, such as soreness at the injection site, mild fever or nausea. Mild side effects from the nasal spray include a runny nose and headache.
- You cannot get the flu from getting the flu shot.
- You can donate blood after getting the flu vaccine as long as you aren’t displaying symptoms of the flu and meet all other requirements. There is no risk of transmitting the flu after receiving the vaccine.
- It takes two weeks for the vaccine antibodies to provide protection. This is another reason to get vaccinated early in the season, when flu viruses are spreading more slowly.
- You should talk to your health care provider if you have a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccines or an allergy to eggs. Some vaccines are made using small amounts of egg proteins, but there are types of flu vaccines that don’t contain any.
- Children under the age of six months are too young to receive the vaccine, but if you’re pregnant you should get the flu shot. It will protect both you and your baby from serious flu complications.
It’s easy and convenient to get the flu vaccine from either your doctor or your local pharmacy. Before you get the flu shot, you can learn more about your coverage by visiting bcbsm.com or calling the Customer Service number on the back on your membership card.
Want to learn more about the flu season? Read these other blogs from this site as well as A Healthier Michigan:
- Does Your Child Need a Second Dose of the Flu Vaccine?
- The Flu Shot or Nasal Spray: Which is for You?
- Amp Up Your Resistance With an Annual Flu Vaccination
Photo credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District