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The Flu Vaccine Today: Options and Alternatives

As the fall season approaches every year, the question of “When are you getting your flu shot?” becomes a commonplace topic of conversation. The flu vaccine is important for everyone in order to ward against one of the winter season’s most common and deadly threats.

Yet, is it for everyone? What do you do if you’re allergic? What kinds of options and alternatives are available?

According to Dr. Mark Posner, M.D., Partner Physician at Allergy & Asthma Specialists, the flu vaccine is essential for the greater good. “Flu shots are important for public health – especially for asthmatics and pregnant women.” He adds, “It’s important for everyone to prevent influenza especially because high risk people can die from it.”

Yet, the flu shot is not for everyone. Babies under 6 months of age should not receive the flu vaccine, and anyone who has developed Guillain-Barre syndrome from the flu shot should also not get it.

Some people opt out of the flu shot because of the side effects, which can include swelling and inflammation to the injected area, a low grade fever, and fatigue. Others fear they may actually get the flu from the flu vaccine, but this fear is unfounded.

“You can’t get the flu from the flu shot,” Dr. Posner explains. “You’re not being injected with the live virus – only the outside envelope proteins – so you’re really just tricking the immune system into thinking it’s getting the live virus.”

The Nasal Flu Vaccine, An Alternative To The Flu Shot

Still others are averse to getting shots in general, especially children. With today’s advances in technology, however, there are more alternative options to the typical flu shot. For example, there is a nasal vaccine – particularly good for children – for those who’d prefer to inhale a spray instead.

The nasal spray contains a weak version of the live virus that cannot cause the flu. Side effects are similar to that of the shot but can actually be more severe. They include runny nose, headache, sore throat, and cough in adults and wheezing, vomiting, fever, and muscle aches in children.

The spray is recommended for healthy children and adults ages2 through 49. It is not recommended for pregnant women, those taking aspirin, those with weakened immune systems, or those with lung, kidney, or heart disease, similar to the regular flu shot. Dr. Posner especially warns against asthmatics taking the nasal vaccine, as it could aggravate their symptoms.

Allergic to the Flu Shot? Know Your Options

A number of people are actually allergic to the flu vaccine. Allergic reactions include a large amount of swelling and tenderness and hives. More serious symptoms include lightheadedness and difficulty breathing.

Yet, technology has become so advanced that there are several options if you’re allergic.

Those who are allergic to the flu vaccine are typically allergic to eggs, and the vaccine is actually made in eggs. Although there are options for people with egg allergies to receive the flu vaccine, there are still precautions to take.

Dr. Posner says there are several options for those allergic to the flu vaccine – including one that is egg-free – and recommends that you see your allergist to ensure the proper precautions are taken.

“People allergic to the flu shot can be desensitized, or they can choose to not get the shot and take an antiviral medication that reduces the severity of the flu,”Dr. Posner says, adding, “The desensitization process involves receiving small amounts of the medication to dilute the fluid vaccine, which builds up over the course of a couple hours.”

One thing for certain is that influenza can be deadly, and it is important to receive some form of vaccination. Do your research, speak with your primary care physician or allergist, and decide what type of flu vaccination is best for you, in order to experience a safe, healthy, and flu-free winter season.

Fellowship-trained, board certified allergists/immunologists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists provide comprehensive allergy and asthma diagnostics and state-of-the-art treatment at offices in Center City Philadelphia, Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Jenkintown, Doylestown, Lansdale, Pottstown, and Collegeville, PA. Schedule today online at www.AllergyandAsthmaWellness.com or call 1-800-86COUGH, select option 2.