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What Happens When You Get the Flu Vaccine

Winter months are setting in and flu season is ramping up. The easiest (and most effective) way to fight off the flu is to get your flu shot! Unfortunately, there are quite a few misconceptions about how the flu vaccine functions and the important role it plays in protecting your body.

How the Flu Shot Works

When you get sick, it is your immune system that fights diseases or infections to make you feel better. Antibodies are one component of your immune system.

  • Antibodies are proteins that travel through your blood: They seek out germs and alert your immune system when it’s time to take action against harmful invaders, like the flu.
  • Every time a new bacteria or virus enters your body, your immune system must create the matching antibody so that your immune system will know how to make you well again.
  • Once the right antibodies are created in your body, a few will linger. This way, if you come in contact with the bacteria or virus again, you are more quickly able to fight it off.
  • When you get the flu shot, you are triggering the creation of the antibodies that are needed to alert your immune system to the presence of the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu vaccine causes the body to develop antibodies roughly two weeks after the vaccination occurs. Once they are in your body, you use these antibodies as protection against infection from the influenza virus if you come in contact with it during the season.

The reason that the vaccine must be administered each year is because every bacteria or virus has its own specific antibody, and there are multiple different types of flu. The flu shot is specifically designed each year to protect against the type of influenza virus that is most likely to be prevalent in the upcoming season. This may vary from year to year, so you must be sure that your body has the antibodies to fight off this year’s flu virus.

Flu Shot Misconceptions

Unfortunately, in the age of information, it’s become increasingly easier for false information to spread. To clear things up, the CDC has published an informative article with some interesting facts about the flu vaccine.

  • First and foremost, the flu shot cannot cause flu illness.

Flu vaccines are currently made either with a flu vaccine that has been inactivated (and therefore cannot be infectious) or with no flu vaccine virus at all. The fact that you can’t get the flu from obtaining your flu shot has been supported through several randomized, blind studies where some subjects received inactivated flu shots while others received salt water shots. The response to the shots was the same in both groups.

Sometimes, after getting a flu shot, people complain that they do not feel well.

  • Another misconception is that your discomfort means your body is fighting off a mini bout of the flu.

In fact, what’s happening is that you are feeling your body’s early immune response to a foreign substance in the body. Reactions are typically mild and clear up within one to two days.

The Importance of a Flu Shot

The flu can be a very serious illness, particularly among young children, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system. The flu can cause symptoms such as coughing, body aches and nausea. In some serious cases, patients have even been hospitalized or died. You can help your body stave off the flu by making sure to get your vaccine each year.

There are many places you can receive the flu vaccine, but with our immediate care centers, you’ll be able to skip the hassle and long waiting periods. At American Family Care, patients can expect quality treatment from a competent staff with very little waiting. Your time is valuable and so is your health. Find your local AFC urgent care location and get vaccinated today.

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