Colds & Flu
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”- Jim Rohn
About the flu injection
The flu affects everyone at least a few times annually, but with the flu injection, you can reduce your chances of getting infected.
Fatigue, a runny nose, a sore throat and a head-splitting headache. We know these symptoms all too well. You might not be able to skip it, but there may be a way to shield yourself with your annual flu injection. One prick in your arm and you’ll be able to battle the flu no matter the season.
How does the flu injection work?
Like all viruses, the flu adapts and changes rapidly every year. Before each flu season, medical professionals and health experts research the top flu symptoms and create a new concoction to help fight against the virus. This process of battling the flu happens to ensure that we are all prepared for the yearly sniffles, before they become sneezes.
Does it work?
Think of your immune system as your armour against the virus and the flu injection as your shield. The injection helps your immune system fight the virus by helping it to produce antibodies. The antibodies are the soldiers of your immune system because they fight the flu virus when you are infected. The flu injection is a great shield because once taken, it takes roughly two weeks to kick in and afterwards, if your body comes into contact with the flu virus, it begins to attack the virus. The injection can’t shield you completely against the flu, but along with a healthy diet, it lends an extra hand to your immune system.
The flu injection does have side effects, but these do not last forever as they are minor. There is a common misconception that because the flu injection contains the virus, you will get the flu, but this isn’t the case. The virus isn’t live, so it won’t seriously affect you. The side effects that occur are often just because you’ve had an injection.
Side effects include:
Minor body aches, a slight fever and soreness or redness where the shot was given.
Who shouldn’t be taking the injection?
The flu injection is not recommended for everyone. Talk to your doctor because you might be allergic to certain ingredients in the injection, such as the antibiotics used. Besides the ingredients, certain people shouldn’t take the injection because of their life or health condition.
Those who should steer clear are:
Children younger than six months people with a moderate to severe illnesses.
Who should discuss it with their doctor?
Those who are allergic to eggs or have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralyzing illness, also called GBS).
Pregnant women can take flu injection as it is important for you to shield yourself from any infections and viruses such as the flu, in order to protect your unborn child.
Who is most at risk if they don’t take the injection?
If you have a weak immune system, you need the injection. Common of signs of a weak immune system are if you frequently have the flu, or are infected easily.
Other people who are at risk include:
Those who are 65 years old or older as well as cancer sufferers.
How much does it cost?
Local pharmacies in South Africa charge between R66-R90 for a flu injection. Having it done at your general practitioner might cost a bit more. The flu vaccine is available for free or at a lower cost at government hospitals.
“The flu injection gives about 66% protection, but there is a 33% chance of becoming infected anyway. I would suggest that people with a weak immune system such as those with respiratory diseases take the injection for extra protection against the virus, but if you have a decent immune system, it isn’t necessary if you keep a balanced diet and take precaution,” says Dr M Montanus, a general practitioner based in Cape Town.
This article was reviewed by, Dr M Montanus, General practitioner, Cape Town, 2016.