flu shot

Senior Airman Areca T. Wilson/U.S. Air Force

It might just save your life

If you haven’t yet gotten your flu shot this year, you’re a little behind schedule. The 2019-20 cold and flu season is well underway. Some adults don’t get a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than half of adults 18 years and older received a flu vaccine last year.

If you’re thinking about skipping out on the flu shot this year, we have three important considerations to hopefully change your mind. There are many health benefits of the flu vaccine, but what are they?

The flu is more severe than you think

The influenza virus might not seem like a big deal, but you should be concerned. It doesn’t just make you feel sick for a few days; it can harm your health. According to the CDC, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized every year with illnesses associated with influenza virus infections.

The flu can cause many complications, including dehydration, bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and other chronic illnesses. In worst-case scenarios, the flu can even be deadly. Between 1976 and 2006, flu-related deaths ranged from 3,000 to nearly 49,000 people per year. An estimate of 80,000 people died during the 2017-18 flu season.

U.S. Army/Rachel Larue

There are various people who are more at risk of contracting serious health complications from the flu, including those with chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes, people with heart disease, pregnant women, HIV or AIDS patients, cancer patients, and adults aged 65 and older.

It helps you every year

If you received a flu shot last year, it doesn’t provide enough protection for this year’s cold and flu season. Your body’s immune system needs to build up enough protection to fight the virus every year. Your body’s response to the vaccine declines throughout the year, so it’s best to get another vaccine to provide continuous protection.

Primary care physician Dr. Joseph DeVeau said, “When your immune system comes into contact with that killed virus (in the flu shot), it activates the immune system and creates antibodies. When you do come across the real flu, then you’re ready to fight it off and not get sick from the flu.”

The flu spreads quickly

So many people contract the flu virus because it spreads quickly. You can contract the virus when an infected patient coughs or sneezes near you and the droplets get in your nose or mouth. Remember: you should always cover your mouth or cough/sneeze into your shirt sleeve to help prevent the spreading of germs. You can also catch the virus by touching something that has germs on it, and then you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

According to the CDC, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized every year with illnesses associated with influenza virus infections.

“It’s easy to give (the virus) to other people, and we see people all over the place, so you really are at risk,” DeVeau explained. “The bottom line is, definitely get your flu shot. It’s so important not only for yourself but for the community to get your flu shot and keep us all protected.”

When to get the vaccine

Most pharmacies and medical offices receive their first supply of flu shots in August. The cold and flu season usually starts in mid-October and can last until May. Medical professionals recommend getting the vaccine as soon as possible.

“We used to want to wait until later in the flu season to give the shot, but because it’s so variable, the CDC now recommends that when you’re able to find a flu shot, you go ahead and get the flu shot at that time,” DeVeau said.

Of course, the flu shot doesn’t have an immediate effect. It takes approximately two weeks for your body’s immune system to build up antibodies to fight off the flu virus. So, it’s best to get your flu shot in late September or early October to make sure you’re protected against the virus as soon as the season begins.

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