Ask a Los Angeles doctor if a flu shot is for you

Ask a Los Angeles doctor if a flu shot is for you

As summer fades away and cooler weather begins to appear, flu season begins to enter the scene.

While some people religiously get their flu shots each fall, there are some who are skeptical and think a flu shot will make you more susceptible to coming down with the virus.

If you have questions, it’s best to consult with your Los Angeles doctor. Sign in to Angie’s List to find member reviews and ratings for more than 1,200 highly rated family doctors in the area.

Choosing to be vaccinated is a personal decision, but one the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for all people older than 6 months. Because it takes your body up to two weeks to build-up antibodies after the vaccine, getting the flu shot as early as possible is also recommended.

Educate yourself about the virus and the vaccine with answers to some commonly asked questions.

How is influenza spread?
Contagious by nature, the flu virus can spread quite easily from personal contact with someone with the illness. It can be spread from sneezing, coughing or through other points of contact.

Why is being vaccinated against the flu important?
The flu has affected thousands and has proved to be fatal in some instances. Certain individuals at high-risk for developing complications include those younger than 5 years old and older than 65 years of age, pregnant women and individuals with a compromised immune system. Such complications of high-risk individuals include seizures, high fevers, pneumonia and exacerbated health conditions.

What types of flu vaccines exist?
According to the CDC, there are two types available - inactivated and live, attenuated influenza vaccines.

What is the inactivated flu vaccine?
The inactivated vaccine is the injection of what the CDC calls the "killed" flu virus through a needle, which is usually injected in the arm.

Does the inactivated form contain mercury?
The CDC says a preservative known as thimerosal is contained within some vaccines; however, a thimerosal-free alternative is available. Consult with your Los Angeles doctor if you are interested the alternative.

Who should not receive or wait to receive the inactivated flu vaccine? 
Those with a severe, life-threatening allergy, including an egg allergy, should discuss with their doctor whether a vaccine is the best option. Those who developed a severe reaction from a past inactivated flu vaccine or developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) should also consult with a physician.

What is the live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV)?
A live, attenuated (weakened) form of the flu virus is sprayed directly into each nostril.

Who should not receive the LAIV?
Since the LAIV is “live,” certain populations should abstain from this type of vaccine. This includes the following:

  • Pregnant women
  • Adults older than 50
  • Babes from 6-23 months of age
  • Those with a compromised immune system
  • Young ones on a continuing aspirin regimen
  • Children under 5 years of age with asthma or history of several wheezing episodes within the past 12 months
  • Individuals with various nerve or muscle disorders, asthma, or anemia
  • Persons with heart, lung, kidney, liver or metabolic disease

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