If you’ve ever had the flu, you’re familiar with that terrible,
horrible, no good, very bad illness that left you stuck in bed for a while.
What can you do to keep from getting it again?
The single most effective way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot.
But many people hesitate to get it, often because of myths they’ve
heard about the vaccine.
Below, we answer some common questions people have about the flu shot.
Q: Why do I need a flu shot?
A: The flu, which is also called
influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness that is quite common. If you have
the flu, you may have body aches, a cough, a fever, headaches, a runny
or stuffy nose, and a sore throat. But while many people experience mild
or moderate cases of the flu, thousands of people each year end up in
the hospital with severe complications, such as pneumonia and dehydration.
Because these serious complications are possible,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that nearly everyone age 6 months and older get vaccinated. It’s
especially important for those at high risk to be vaccinated, including
young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with compromised
Q: But why do I need a new one every year?
A: Each year, different strains of the flu virus become prevalent. Because
of this, a new flu vaccine is developed annually to protect you from the
strains of the flu that are expected to be most common.
In addition, the protection given by the vaccine diminishes over time,
meaning that even if the same strains of the flu were active, the flu
shot wouldn’t protect you after a year.
Q: When should I get the vaccine?
A: As soon as possible. Flu season typically begins in October and can
last through May. While cases of the flu often peak around January, it’s
possible to get the flu now.
By getting the vaccine early in the fall, you help protect yourself throughout
the flu season. Once you’re vaccinated, antibodies against the flu
form within two weeks. These antibodies help protect you from the strains
of the flu that are in the vaccine.
Q: Whatever happened to the nasal spray vaccine?
A: The CDC determined that the nasal spray, FluMist®, was not effective. A study of the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in
2015 found that the nasal spray vaccine was only 3% effective in preventing the flu.
Have you had your flu shot yet this year? Talk with your doctor about getting
the vaccine. Need a doctor? Find one here.
Annual well-woman checkups are the best way to protect your health. Have
you scheduled yours for this year? If you need a doctor, find one here.