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Biology

What is the flu shot for?

vial of fluzone intradermal vaccine

Flu vaccine Source: CDC

I often talk to people who tell me that they are not going to get the flu shot because they don’t get the flu very often. The thing is that many people are confusing stomach flu with seasonal flu. It is the latter that the flu shot is trying to prevent. We are all probably familiar with the symptoms of stomach flu – nausea and vomiting. Stomach flu is unpleasant at best and for some people I know, it would be worth getting a shot to prevent. But, for others who rarely get stomach flu, it doesn’t seem worth the stress of getting a shot.

The flu shot treats influenza, which affects the respiratory system. Specifically, influenza affects your nose, throat, and lungs. It is often associated with muscle aches, fever, sore throat, and cough. This is why the flu is often confused with the common cold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a useful site to help you distinguish between colds and flus. The thing I remember most about the last really bad flu I had, is how fast it hit me. I was supervising the 2hr final exam for my class and although I had felt okay when I got there, I could barely keep my head up by the end of the exam. I suffered through marking and then crawled home to my bed and didn’t get up again for several days.

So the flu shot treats the flu, not colds and not stomach flus. The flu is more likely to lead to serious complications, particularly for vulnerable populations. So getting the flu shot isn’t even something that you necessarily do for yourself, although I don’t mind avoiding getting sick. It may be something that you do to protect the people around you, whether they are friends or family members or strangers on the bus. To read more check out my earlier post about herd immunity.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.

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