It’s almost flu season, the time of year when flu viruses are circulating at higher than normal levels in the U.S. It can begin as early as October, and go as late as May. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older to get vaccinated at some point during flu season—yet we all know people who shrug their shoulders and say, “eh, I never get the flu. It’s not worth my time.”
In fact, only 42.2% of adults received their flu vaccination during the 2014-2015 season. That annual shot may seem like an afterthought, but it’s vital to your health, and to the health of the public at large. Here’s why:
- It’s Gross To start, having the flu is just nasty. If you get it, your best case scenario is a combination of fever, sores, aches, chills, and stomach issues. It will make you less productive at work and will put a damper on your social life. That’s reason enough to do everything you can to prevent it.
- It’s Fatal (Sometimes) Don’t forget: The flu can put you in the hospital or, worse yet, be fatal. The outcome is rare for young, healthy people, but it’s possible. Why risk it?
- It Protects Others Even if you aren’t at risk personally, you can protect others by getting your flu shot. A whopping 90 percent of flu deaths are those 65 or older; widespread vaccination protects this group. Do it for your grandma.
- It Lessens Fatalities Flu vaccinations effectively reduce severe outcomes. In the 2011-2012 flu season, vaccines were associated with a 71 percent reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages, and a 77 percent reduction among adults 50 years of age and older.
- It’s Different Every Year Yeah, it’s annoying to get a flu shot every year. But it’s essential for two reasons: The antibodies produced in your body from the vaccine decline as time goes on, so the shot is less likely to protect you a year after receiving it. And flu viruses mutate rapidly. Because of this, the formulation of the vaccines is reviewed each year and updated to protect against new strains. An annual shot is necessary to keep a fever, or worse, from ruining your holidays.
Because the flu is so nasty and spreads so quickly, the CDC and healthcare professionals urge people to be vaccinated as early as possible. Ideally, you should be vaccinated by October, because the shot takes two weeks before it is fully effective. A lot of people don’t get the shot during this initial push, and they think it’s too late. But the shot will be offered at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers throughout flu season; it’s never too late. Not being immunized early is no reason to sit out the whole year. Most flu seasons peak in January or later, so there is plenty of time to get the shot and be protected against the worst of it.
The flu shot is a crucial part of your health regimen. If you have a regular doctor or nurse, talk to them about getting one ASAP. If you don’t see a healthcare professional regularly, there are a lot of other options. Pharmacies, urgent care clinics, and the health centers at your college or workplace are good places to look. Any option works as long as you get the shot.