health

"Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?"

Image via iStock.

About 15 per cent of us get struck by the flu each year, and the flu (or influenza) vaccine is your best shot (sorry) at preventing it.

But what puts many people off is the belief that the flu vaccine can actually give you the flu.

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A 2012 survey by US pharmacy CVS found that 35 per cent of people believed this to be true.

Fortunately, it’s not.

“The vaccine is made from influenza virus that has been grown, killed and purified,” Dr Alan Hampson, the chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group explained to Ninemsn.

The flu vaccine does not contain any live viruses. Image via iStock.

“It’s then broken into little pieces, which fools the body into thinking it has been invaded. The body then makes antibodies to mop up the virus and stop it from causing nasty infection.”

Because the vaccine does not contain any live viruses, it cannot cause flu.

What a few people (around 20 to 25 per cent) DO experience is a few minor side effects that can be confused with flu-like symptoms.

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These include a slight temperature, aching muscles and soreness around the injection area for up to a couple of days afterwards. They're perfectly normal reactions and are usually resolved within a few days with no treatment required.

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Should you get it?

Certain groups of people are categorised in the “high risk” category, meaning catching the virus can be life threatening. These groups, including anyone aged 65 years or over, pregnant women and anyone with medical conditions like heart disease, severe asthma and diabetes, are eligible for a free vaccine via the federal government

While people outside of these groups are much less likely to die from influenza, that’s not to say it can’t knock you out for a few days.

Even if you're not in the high-risk group, the flu may still knock you out for a week. Image via iStock.

"While healthy people are unlikely to be hospitalised or die from influenza, they'll still probably have to take a week off work and feel really sick," Dr Hampson says.

Just because you have had the vaccine previously, does not mean you’re completely covered either.

Each year sees different strains of the flu emerge, so the vaccine is updated accordingly. For your best chance at protecting yourself from the flu (alongside eating healthy, exercising and good personal hygiene), it’s worth ensuring you get your shot at the start of each winter, whether you’re in the high-risk group or not.

A healthy diet is also important in protecting your body against the flu. Luckily that doesn't mean having to give up all your favourite foods (thanks science!).

Got more questions? Read this for further information about this year's flu vaccine.

Do you get the flu vaccine each year? Have you ever suffered from any of the side effects?

Tags: cold , flu , flu-vaccine , health-2 , vaccination
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