Fluarix

What is Fluarix?

Fluarix is a brand of influenza virus vaccine (injectable).

Influenza virus (commonly known as "the flu") is a serious disease caused by a virus. Influenza virus can spread from one person to another through small droplets of saliva that are expelled into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be passed through contact with objects the infected person has touched, such as a door handle or other surfaces.

Fluarix is used to prevent infection caused by influenza virus. The vaccine is redeveloped each year to contain specific strains of inactivated (killed) flu virus that are recommended by public health officials for that year.

Fluarix vaccine (flu shot) is a "killed virus" vaccine.

Fluarix works by exposing you to a small dose of the virus, which helps your body to develop immunity to the disease. Fluarix will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.

Fluarix is for use in adults and children who are at least 6 months old.

Becoming infected with influenza is much more dangerous to your health than receiving Fluarix. Influenza causes thousands of deaths each year, and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. However, like any medicine, Fluarix can cause side effects but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.

Like any vaccine, Fluarix may not provide protection from disease in every person. Fluarix will not prevent illness caused by avian flu ("bird flu").

Important information about Fluarix

Fluarix vaccine (flu shot) is a "killed virus" vaccine. Influenza virus vaccine is also available in a nasal spray form, which is a "live virus" vaccine. This medication guide addresses only the injectable form of this vaccine.

You can still receive a vaccine if you have a minor cold. In the case of a more severe illness with a fever or any type of infection, wait until you get better before receiving Fluarix.

Keep track of any and all side effects you have after receiving Fluarix. If you ever need to receive Fluarix in the future, you will need to tell your doctor if the previous shot caused any side effects.

Like any vaccine, Fluarix may not provide protection from disease in every person. Fluarix will not prevent illness caused by avian flu ("bird flu").

Fluarix vaccine will not cause you to become ill with the flu virus that it contains. However, you may have flu-like symptoms at any time during flu season that may be caused by other strains of influenza virus.

Becoming infected with influenza is much more dangerous to your health than receiving Fluarix. However, like any medicine, Fluarix can cause side effects but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.

Before receiving Fluarix

You should not receive Fluarix if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine, or if you have:

  • an active or uncontrolled neurologic disorder (such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or epilepsy);
  • a history of seizures;
  • a history of Guillian-Barre syndrome (within 6 weeks after receiving a vaccine);
  • if you are allergic to eggs.

To make sure you can safely receive Fluarix, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • a bleeding or blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia or easy bruising;
  • a neurologic disorder or disease affecting the brain (or if this was a reaction to a previous vaccine);
  • a weak immune system caused by disease, bone marrow transplant, or by using certain medicines or receiving cancer treatments; or
  • if you are allergic to latex rubber.

You can still receive a vaccine if you have a minor cold. In the case of a more severe illness with a fever or any type of infection, wait until you get better before receiving Fluarix.

Vaccines may be harmful to an unborn baby and generally should not be given to a pregnant woman. However, not vaccinating the mother could be more harmful to the baby if the mother becomes infected with a disease that Fluarix could prevent. Your doctor will decide whether you should receive Fluarix, especially if you have a high risk of infection with influenza. It is not known whether influenza virus vaccine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not receive Fluarix without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. Fluarix should not be given to a child younger than 6 months old.

How is Fluarix given?

Fluarix is given as an injection (shot) into a muscle. You will receive this injection in a doctor's office or other clinic setting.

You should receive a flu vaccine every year. Your immunity will gradually decrease over the 12 months after you receive the Fluarix vaccine. Children receiving Fluarix may need a booster shot one month after receiving the first vaccine.

The Fluarix vaccine is usually given in October or November. Some people may need to have their vaccines earlier or later. Follow your doctor's instructions.

Your doctor may recommend treating fever and pain with an aspirin-free pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, and others) when the shot is given and for the next 24 hours. Follow the label directions or your doctor's instructions about how much of this medicine to give your child.

It is especially important to prevent fever from occurring in a child who has a seizure disorder such as epilepsy.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since flu shots are usually given only one time per year, you will most likely not be on a dosing schedule. Call your doctor if you forget to receive your yearly flu shot in October or November.

If your child misses a booster dose of Fluarix, call your doctor for instructions.

What happens if I overdose?

An overdose of Fluarix is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid before or after receiving Fluarix?

Follow your doctor's instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

Fluarix side effects

Fluarix vaccine will not cause you to become ill with the flu virus that it contains. However, you may have flu-like symptoms at any time during flu season that may be caused by other strains of influenza virus.

You should not receive a booster vaccine if you had a life-threatening allergic reaction after the first shot. Keep track of any and all side effects you have after receiving Fluarix. If you ever need to receive Fluarix in the future, you will need to tell your doctor if the previous shot caused any side effects. Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • severe weakness or unusual feeling in your arms and legs (may occur 2 to 4 weeks after you receive the vaccine);
  • high fever;
  • seizure (convulsions); or
  • unusual bleeding.

Less serious Fluarix side effects may include:

  • low fever, chills;
  • mild fussiness or crying;
  • redness, bruising, pain, swelling, or a lump where the vaccine was injected;
  • headache, tired feeling; or
  • joint or muscle pain.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

What other drugs will affect Fluarix?

Before receiving Fluarix, tell your doctor if you are using phenytoin (Dilantin), theophylline (Respbid, Slo-Bid, Theodur, Uniphyl), or a blood thinner (warfarin, Coumadin).

Also tell the doctor if you have recently received drugs or treatments that can weaken the immune system, including:

  • an oral, nasal, inhaled, or injectable steroid medicine;
  • medications to treat psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune disorders, such as azathioprine (Imuran), efalizumab (Raptiva), etanercept (Enbrel), leflunomide (Arava), and others; or
  • medicines to treat or prevent organ transplant rejection, such as basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral, Gengraf), muromonab-CD3 (Orthoclone), mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), sirolimus (Rapamune), or tacrolimus (Prograf).

If you are using any of these medications, you may not be able to receive the vaccine, or may need to wait until the other treatments are finished.

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with Fluarix. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

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