The Flu Shot

Oct 7, 2014

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

I didn't want to go. We were cleaning up at the lake in the afternoon. That morning in town we had raked leaves. Unfortunately, I had told my daughter, Emily about Yard Fringe. She goaded Eric and I into getting on our bikes and going down to the Watson Arts Center. We joined the crowd at the WAC and followed Kirk Nyquist and his goofy jester's hat to the D-Town Skate Park. One of the skaters asked my why we were all there. I had to tell him I still wasn't really sure. Then the chalk came out and suddenly we were all drawing on the side walk. That was more fun than I would've thought. At another house we wrote our wishes for a better future on mason jars with Sharpies. We had pop-up entertainment on our little bike rides. We got a Chris Barker Band guitar solo. We had Bruce Childs and his trumpet showing us why it should be Bruce Childs and the Tijuana Brass not Herb Alpert. The kids drizzled paint on spinning canvases. We saw short plays about dead cats and postit notes on a marriage. We heard more horns playing the Superman theme. And we met a Kosak on horseback in Vermillion Park. But some of the most impressive artists were the younger ones who live close to my house.

Yard Fringe showcased artists all over Dauphin. The flu is an infection that will soon be spreading all over Dauphin as well. What is the flu? The flu (or influenza) is a highly contagious viral illness. It can spread easily from one person to another through coughing, sneezing or sharing food or drinks. You can also get the flu by touching objects contaminated with flu virus and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. That is why hand washing is so important to prevent the spread of the flu. It is also recommended that you cough or sneeze into your elbow, sleeve or into a tissue. Influenza symptoms include fever, headache, cough, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat and exhaustion. The symptoms of the flu are usually more severe than that of a cold. The onset of the flu is usually quite sudden. Flu symptoms usually last from 7 to 10 days, but the cough and weakness can continue for 6 weeks. Influenza arrives in Manitoba every year in late fall or early winter.

Can I get the flu from the flu shot? No. The flu vaccine is made from dead virus parts. It cannot give you the flu. Unfortunately, some people can get sick, or can even get the flu immediately after the flu shot. That is because the flu shot doesnt start working until 2 weeks after the shot. So you can catch the flu and get symptoms during that two week period. Also, people who seem to have gotten the flu within a day or two of the shot probably had the flu virus in them already at the time of the shot, and would have gotten sick anyway. Finally, the flu shot only protects against some very specific influenza viruses It doesnt protect against the common cold virus or bacterial illnesses.

Can the flu shot give me a bad reaction? Rarely. But it is almost always safer to get the flu shot than to get the flu. The flu shot is made in chicken eggs. So people with serious egg allergies should not get the flu shot. You can get a local reaction at the injection site that turns red and sore for up to two days. You may also get fever, headache, or muscle pain. Your pharmacist can get you acetaminophen products to help with these mild symptoms. If these symptoms get very bad or last for a long time, seek medical attention. If you get hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips after you leave the flu clinic, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department for immediate treatment.

How well does the flu shot work? That is difficult to say. The influenza virus mutates every year or so. Scientists look at what the flu virus was like last year and try to predict what it will be like this year when they make up a new batch of vaccine. If the virus only changed a little, the flu shot works well. If the virus changed a lot, the flu shot doesnt work as well. The on average, the flu vaccine is effective in about 50-70% of healthy adults and children. In nursing homes, the flu vaccine stops 50%-60% of flu related hospitalizations, and 85% of flu related deaths. As said before immunity to the flu usually starts about 2 weeks after the shot and lasts less than 1 year. The elderly, unfortunately, can have their immunity fall off in as little as 4 months.

Who should get the flu shot?

  • Seniors aged 65 years or older
  • Residents of personal care homes or long-term care facilities
  • Children six months to five years of age

Those with chronic illness such as:

  • an immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment
  • a condition that makes it difficult to breathe
  • children 6 months to 18 years of age on long term acetylsalicylic acid (i.e. aspirin) therapy.
  • people with other chronic medical conditions (ex. diabetes, mental disabilities)
  • Pregnant women
  • Health care workers and first responders
  • Individuals of Aboriginal ancestry
  • People who are severely overweight or obese

Who should not get the flu shot?

  • Infants younger than six months of age
  • Anyone who has a severe allergy to egg protein, formaldehyde or thiomerosal
  • Anyone who has a serious acute illness, with or without fever, on the day they are to be immunized. A mild illness, with or without a low fever, is not a reason to avoid getting the flu shot
  • Persons known to have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of a previous influenza vaccination.

So get the flu shot. No one likes to get sick and the flu shot is your best protection from getting the flue. I know Ebola is all over the news now that it has killed over 2000 people in Africa. But every year the flu kills 2000 to 8000 Canadians. That number never seems to catch any headlines. Yard Fringe should get more headlines as well. I was reluctant to go, but I had a great time. Some of the most impressive artists I saw live in my neighborhood. Emily Gudbjartson and Alexa Bennet put on an impressive musical set singing and playing several instruments respectively. Tanner Bennet and Anna Toews were equally talented. Dauphin never fails to impress me with its talented citizens. Without Yard Fringe I wouldnt have known about all the talent on my own dog walking route.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional

Manitoba Health Flu info site: www.gov.mb.ca/health/flu/

Health Canada Flu site: www.fightflu.ca

 


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