If you are pregnant, get a flu shot! This recommendation surprises some pregnant women every year. It is common knowledge that many things a pregnant woman is exposed to can harm her unborn baby or the pregnancy.
Why do we encourage pregnant women to be vaccinated against influenza?
Influenza is a contagious disease caused by a virus which is spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions. For most people, symptoms only last a few days and can include fever/chills, sore throat, body aches, cough, headache, runny nose and fatigue.
Type B flu viruses affect mainly children and usually cause mild disease. Type A flu (such as H1N1 or "swine" flu) affect all age groups and cause moderate to severe illness.
Some people can become dangerously ill when they get the flu. These include young children, people 65 and older, people with certain health conditions and pregnant women.
Some of the normal changes in a pregnant woman's body make it easier for her to get the flu if exposed and more difficult for her to recover from it.
Every year, thousands of people die from influenza and even more are hospitalized. By getting a flu vaccine you can protect yourself from influenza and may also avoid spreading it to others, including your own family.
There are two types of influenza vaccine. Inactivated (killed) vaccine is given by injection with a needle. Live attenuated (weakened) vaccine is sprayed into the nostrils. Pregnant women should receive only the inactivated vaccine.
Influenza viruses are always changing, so yearly vaccination is necessary. It takes up to two weeks for protection to develop after the shot. Influenza can occur at any time but most cases are from October to May, with a peak in January and February.
Getting the vaccine now will provide protection for the entire flu season. A pregnant woman who will deliver in the next few months should still get the flu vaccine to avoid giving flu to her newborn baby.
Some people should not get the flu shot. A severe reaction to any part of the vaccine (including eggs) may be a reason to avoid it. Allergy to the flu shot is rare. People who have had Guillian-Barre Syndrome should discuss flu vaccination with their health care provider. People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. People with mild illness can usually get the vaccine.
The most common side effects are mild and can include soreness/redness where the shot was given, fever, aches, headache and fatigue. If they occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last one to two days. Viruses in the flu shot have been killed, so you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. Severe problems after a flu shot are very rare.
For more information, talk with your health care provider or visit the Centers for Disease Control's website at www.cdc.gov/ flu. And get a flu shot!
Donna Ogg, a Certified Nurse-Midwife, is employed by Women's Care Partners, Altoona. She has 23 years of experience in her field. She lives in Hollidaysburg.