Dr Shakeel Ahmed, specialist internal medicine at iCARE Multi-specialty Clinics Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The flu is a virus that constantly changes and adapts. This is why it is so widespread and difficult to avoid. To keep up with the rapid changes in viruses, new vaccines are developed. They help people battle them throughout the year . Prior to each known flu season, health experts predict which type of flu is most likely to surface and hence use that information to create the appropriate vaccine for the period.

The main function of a flu shot is to help your immune system produce the right antibodies which aid your body in effectively fighting the virus. These antibodies help the body to fight off the types of flu virus that are present in the vaccine. It takes about two to three weeks after receiving the flu shot for these antibodies to fully develop and reach their most effective state.

While some may be more prone to infection than others, it is recommended that everyone six months of age or older be vaccinated against the flu. Flu shots are not 100 per cent effective in preventing the flu. However, they are still the most effective method to protect against a virus and its related complications.

Certain groups of people such as pregnant women, people over the age of 50, children between six months and five years and people with chronic medical conditions, have high risks of catching a flu and developing potentially dangerous flu-related complications. It is crucial for people in these high-risk groups to be vaccinated.

Some people should not get a flu shot. They include people who have had a bad reaction to disease in the past; those who are severely allergic to eggs; allergic to mercury; have Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare side effect of temporary paralysis that occurs after receiving the flu vaccine. Those having fever on the day of the vaccination should wait until the fever is gone before receiving a vaccination.

Most people incorrectly assume that the flu vaccine could give them the flu, but flu shots are safe. Although you cannot get the flu from the shot, some people may experience flu-like symptoms within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine. Possible side effects of the flu shot include low-grade fever, soreness around the injection site, chills or headache. Symptoms are typically mild and go away within a day or two. This basic information can help parents be prepared and get flu shots administered on time.

(The author is specialist internal medicine at iCARE Multi-specialty Clinics)