With the change of seasons comes the risk of new flu viruses. Here's what you need to know about the flu shot.

When should I get it?

You can contract the influenza (flu) virus year-round, but it’s more common to catch the flu during the colder winter months, between April and September. So if you’re keen to take precautions by having the flu shot, the best time to get vaccinated is from the end of March as it takes approximately two to three weeks for the antibodies to reach their full potency. Also remember that because flu strains change from year to year, the vaccine does too, which means an annual flu shot is recommended. 

How does the flu injection work and why should I get it?

As with most things in life, and as the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Where the flu is concerned, it’s better to take every precaution against it – and that includes getting a flu shot. The influenza vaccination works by injecting inactive flu viruses into the bloodstream, which will encourage your immune system to produce antibodies. These antibodies are the proteins that render viruses inactive. That means by the time you’re exposed to the live influenza virus, you’ll already have the antibody army you need on standby and ready to attack. Unfortunately no vaccine is 100% effective, but if you’ve had the flu shot and still happen to get sick, it may be far less severe and may not linger for as long as if you had not been vaccinated at all. The vaccine only contains a limited number of viruses, and if one encounters a virus not included in the vaccine one may still contract flu or a common cold. 

Who should get the flu shot?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the flu vaccination for almost everyone, particularly those who are at a higher risk of contracting the disease. These include elderly and disabled people, people who live in special care homes, people who suffer from chronic medical conditions, and other susceptible people such as pregnant women, those who fill vital functions in society such as healthcare workers, and babies from six to 24 months. Some experts recommend that babies get an initial half-dose of the flu vaccine before coming back to the clinic or pharmacy for the other half-dose a month later. 

Who should avoid getting the flu shot?

Infants younger than six months, or anyone who’s had a negative reaction to a previous flu vaccine should not get the flu shot. Historically, people with egg allergies were monitored closely after receiving the vaccine because it contains a small amount of egg proteins (such as ovalbumin). However, it is now believed to be relatively safe. If you have an egg allergy, it is still worth consulting with your healthcare provider before receiving the vaccination. Remember, bad reactions to the flu shot are rare – you may only experience mild side effects, if any at all.  

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.