The flu is a common illness which thousands of us suffer from every year. But what is the difference between a common cold and the flu? When is the flu shot needed? Within this guide, we will be taking you through everything you need to know about the flu shot and its importance.

What Is The Flu?

Influenza, or more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious illness affecting the respiratory system. It is caused by a virus infecting your nose, lungs and/or throat. Symptoms of flu can include:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Aching body (head and muscles)

The flu is easily caught as it spreads incredibly easily. When those who are infected sneeze or cough, droplets (saliva, mucus) can end up landing on you.

Once you’ve caught the flu, you’ll find yourself feeling under the weather for around one to two weeks, but the healthy few can recover within five days after experiencing symptoms. Children with this illness can face a longer recovery time, due to their less established or immune systems.

What Is The Flu Shot?

The flu shot works to prevent you from falling seriously ill when infected with the flu. It works by injecting you with an existing form of the virus, encouraging your immune system to produce antibodies. It takes around two weeks for these antibodies to fully establish in your body and start to fight off infection.

Why Do I Need The Flu Shot? Why Is It So Important?

Health professionals encourage that everyone over the age of 6-months should be receiving the shot. Despite not being 100% effective at fighting off the virus, it is the best available protection for influenza and the complications that it could cause.

But, if it only causes a sniffle, why is the flu shot so important?

Although the common symptoms are minor and clear up pretty quickly, the illness can cause complications and lead to more serious conditions depending on your medical history. This includes:

Congestive heart failure - this affects the pumping abilities of the heart due to a buildup of fluid around the heart causing it to inefficiently pump blood around the body. If people suffering from this condition were to contract the flu, it can worsen their health and ultimately be fatal.

Asthma - those suffering from asthma face more severe medical complications if they were to fall ill with the flu. Due to their pre-existing difficulting breathing, the respiratory virus (influenza) only worsens their medical condition.

Bacterial pneumonia - some individuals that contract the flu may also be at risk of this medical condition. Bacterial pneumonia is an infection in your lungs causing them to become inflamed and fill up with liquid.

The shot can also also be invaluable to other groups:

Women looking to conceive - women should ensure they are up to date with their flu shot, especially if they are planning on conceiving. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting the flu, which could lead to complications such as premature birth.

Young children - between the ages of 6-months to 5-years, children's immune systems are not yet fully formed or capable of fighting infections as an adult can. This can cause the illness to be more severe. It is advised that parents get their children vaccinated as young as possible (6-months old) to keep them protected.

Older people - when you reach an age of 65 or above, your immune system will begin to become less reliable when it comes to fighting off infections. It is advised for those in this age group to get an up to date flu shot to help strengthen immune systems..

Side-Effects Of The Flu Shot

The shot has been known to give temporary side-effects, often flu-like, for up to 24-hours after being administered due to the antibodies being built up in preparation to fight infection. This typically includes:

  • Mild fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Red/sore/swollen around the injection area

The vaccine is very safe for the majority of people, but certain people are not medically advised to receive it, such as those who have previously reacted poorly to the shot. People with severe egg allergies are also advised to stay clear of the vaccine.

Mercury allergies also affect your ability to receive the shot as the vaccine can carry traces of the element to avoid contamination.

Treatments Options For The Flu

If you do find yourself feeling under the weather, there are many places to turn to for advice. It’s wise to head to an online pharmacy to avoid spreading your illness to other people.

In terms of the flu, however, the flu vaccination is the most effective preventative method. Types of flu shots can include:

High-dose shot - this shot is advised to those 65-years of age and older. Due to their weakened immune systems, this shot is designed to work harder at fighting infection and contains four times the number of antigens to stimulate antibodies.

Intradermal shot - ideal for 18-64-year-olds, this shot is administered into the arm muscle using a smaller needle (more desirable for those afraid of needles). This shot works just as well as the regular shot, but does increase the likelihood of side-effects occurring, varying from itchiness, head/muscle aching and fatigue.

Nasal Spray - this form of vaccination is ideal for those not wanting to receive an injection, such as young children or those with a fear of needles. To receive this type of shot, you must be aged between 2 - 49 years old, you cannot be pregnant and you must not have any serious pre-existing medical conditions. This nasal spray is said to be just as effective as the injections, but not everyone can receive it so it is wise to do your research and consult your doctor.