Flu season and flu vaccine

Now that Fall is finally coming, everyone starts thinking about the flu season. And this is a typical conversation that I will have several times at work:

"Can I get a flu from the flu vaccine?"

"No, you cannot. This is not a[n attenuated] live vaccine, so you cannot get flu from this vaccine."

"I swear that I/my husband/my mother/[insert other person you know] got this flu when I got a flu vaccine x years ago!"

The answer is very simple. Whenever our body is subjected to a foreign substance (in this case, the vaccine), the foreign substance challenges the body's immune system and sometimes it may produce a flu-like reaction. It does not mean that you are getting a flu from the vaccine, but it is your body's reaction to the vaccine. Vaccine is supposed to challenge your immune system to produce antibody. We call these type of substance immunogenic.

Another explanation: you already got the flu virus before you get the vaccine. It takes about 10-14 days (from the time you get the flu shot) for the body to gear up antibody production to reach its maximum. If within that time frame, or even before, you are exposed to the flu virus (and the incubation period for flu virus is anywhere from 3-5 days, sometimes longer/shorter), you have a real flu, not from the vaccine, but from the virus itself that you were exposed to prior to getting the vaccine.

Finally, the best way to protect yourself from getting any type of airborne ailments during these cooler months is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Sing the "ABC" song while rubbing your hands, or "Happy Birthday" twice! If you are using hand sanitizer, rub them until the alcohol is evaporated, again, about 20 seconds. No soap? No worries. It is the friction from the rubbing of hands that helps removed all the germs (if I can find it & find the time to do it, I will post the study that support this practice).

Stay warm and be well.

P.S. A kind reminder that the content of this blog post is not a substitute for an advice from your own healthcare provider. You should bring any specific questions to your healthcare provider, who knows you the best!

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