Colds and flu

Updated 02 April 2019

5 things you should know about getting a flu shot

Here are five things you need to know about the flu vaccine ahead of flu "season".

Winter 2018 saw an intense outbreak of influenza in the Northern Hemisphere. It is therefore vital for South Africans to get their "flu shot".

According to Netcare, the last flu cycle in the Northern Hemisphere resulted in the death of 30 infants in the US alone.

Dr Annamarie Richter,  medical director at Netcare’s Primary Care Division, stated on their website that a new vaccination was produced to match changes in two of three flu strains, and that this latest vaccination is now being made available throughout South Africa.

Still unsure whether you need the flu shot or not? Here’s what you should know:

1. It’s never too late, but rather do it sooner

While the middle of winter is not too late to receive the flu shot, remember that it takes about two weeks for the body to produce the necessary protective antibodies. Give your body enough time to develop adequate protection by getting your flu shot sooner rather than later.

2. You’re not only protecting yourself, but also other more vulnerable people

“Flu is not so bad for me, I recover quite quickly,” you may argue. Not only does the influenza virus change strains yearly, producing more severe symptoms, but you as an individual should also protect anyone vulnerable close to you, such as the elderly, infants, and those with a compromised immune system.

Some people argue that flu is simply a more severe form of the cold, but it is potentially fatal. According to Harvard Medical School, flu activity significantly increased in the US during their last winter, with the A(H3N2) virus being the most prevalent, leading to increased hospitalisations, especially in children and those over 65.

And even if you don’t show symptoms, you may still be spreading the virus without realising it – about 20% to 30% of those carrying the virus have had no symptoms.

3. You need to get an annual flu shot

You need to keep your vaccination up to date to make sure you are protected against the latest strains, as the influenza virus mutates yearly. So even if you had your shot last year, the 2019 vaccination was developed to fight the most prevalent strains of the latest flu season.

4. The flu shot will not give you the flu

Repeat after us, "You will not get the flu from the flu vaccination." While some people experience minor side-effects such as localised swelling, mild fever and soreness, the best way to protect yourself against the flu remains the flu vaccine.

However, even if you still get flu after the flu vaccination, your symptoms will be milder.

5. There are other measures to protect yourself against the flu

While the flu vaccination is a key step in protecting yourself, it shouldn’t end there. Boost your immunity by including loads of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet. If you start feeling run down, get more sleep. Avoid close contact with people who have the flu, and make sure you regularly wash your hands. If you are sick, stay away from work to avoid the flu from spreading. Not sure how long you should book yourself off sick? Read here.

Get your flu vaccination

If you haven't had your shot yet, get it from a credible pharmacy or medical professional to make sure it is the most up-to-date version.

Image credit: iStock


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Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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