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Should Nurses Get a Flu Shot?

October 8th, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

The question rolls around every fall: Should I get a flu shot? While everyone is different and people may have good reasons for saying no, in general, having a vaccination against seasonal influenza is usually a good idea, particularly for nurses and nursing assistants.

But I never get sick

You may rarely – if ever – get sick. But if you do get infected with the flu, you’ll likely wish you had the vaccination. Unlike the “gastric flu” or “stomach flu” (which aren’t a type of flu at all) that many people claim to have, true flu or influenza is a serious respiratory illness that can have very serious consequences.

For those who get off the easiest, they’re knocked off their feet for a few days. For those who are hit harder, they could end up with severe consequences, such as pneumonia and sepsis. Most importantly, people die from influenza, particularly those who are at higher risk, such as the elderly and those who are already ill with chronic diseases.

I’m not at risk though

Nurses and nursing assistants are the front-line workers in health care. They are the ones who see the patients most often and provide the hands-on care. While it could be that you never get sick and if you do, you bounce back quickly, did you know that if you do contract influenza, you are contagious around 24 hours before  you even know you’re sick? That means you could be contaminating the vulnerable patients you are caring for, plus the nurses around you.

Vaccines don’t always work

It is true that the flu vaccines are not as effective some years as they are others. The experts have to decide what they feel is the most likely virus to head towards the western world in time for them to come up with a viable vaccine. Sometimes they guess right, sometimes they don’t. But they do guess right much of the time. And, if you do get influenza despite the vaccine, usually it is a much milder case than if you had not been vaccinated at all.

Vaccines will make me sick

This is a myth that has been circulating for years and even some nurses believe it. They either know someone who became very ill with the flu the day after a vaccination or they felt sick themselves after being vaccinated.

Vaccinations don’t work the day you get them. It takes a few days, up to a couple of weeks sometimes, for the vaccine to have its full effect. Therefore, if you’ve been exposed to the flu just before  you received your injection or just after, you will still come down with the illness – it’s not the vaccine that did it.

Should you get the flu vaccine this year? Of course, the choice is yours. But if you’re on the fence, if ever knew of someone who was previously healthy and who died from having the flu, you wouldn’t be wasting time trying to decide.

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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