Getting an influenza vaccine, also referred to as a flu shot, is one of the best ways you can protect yourself against developing the flu. Influenza is a potentially serious disease. It affects millions of people every year and can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death.
Each flu season is different, and the disease can affect each individual differently, but it is important to do what you can to protect yourself and those around you from developing the flu and getting a flu shot is your best option.
How the Flu Shot Works
When you are given a flu shot, the flu vaccine will cause antibodies to develop in your body within approximately two weeks after receiving the shot. These antibodies provide your body with protection against the viruses that were included in the vaccine. Essentially, this means that the flu shot is helping your body to be completely prepared to fight an actual flu virus if you become infected with it so that you do not get sick.
There are many different types of influenza, and the strains that affect people change each year. Because of the variation involved with the flu virus each year, the flu shot changes every year as well. Federal researchers do studies to predict which strains of the flu are most likely to be prevalent in the upcoming year, and they work to create immunizations that can help combat those particular strains.
When Should You Get a Flu Shot?
The flu season typically begins in the fall and lasts through the spring although the length of time that the season lasts and the amount of people that get sick will vary each year. It is highly recommended that you get your flu shot before the flu begins to spread in your community. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, although most flu vaccines are still being provided through January.
The Pros of Getting a Flu Shot
There are many benefits to getting a flu shot. Here are just a few of the reasons for why getting vaccinated is a good idea:
- A flu shot can prevent the flu. Studies have shown that when people get vaccinated, it drastically reduces the number of people that develop the flu virus. In fact, in recent years the flu shot has prevented millions of cases of the flu. This means that by getting vaccinated you greatly increase your chances of staying healthy throughout the flu season.
- A flu shot can reduce doctor visits. Because the flu shot reduces the number of people that get sick with the flu each year, it also prevents tens of thousands of hospital and doctor visits. This can be very beneficial for you because if the shot prevents you from getting sick, you will not need to go to the hospital or doctor, which can save you a lot of time and money.
- A flu shot can reduce the severity of the flu. Even if you develop a different strain of the flu virus after you are vaccinated, studies have shown that having gotten a flu shot can drastically reduce the severity of the illness you contract. This means that even if you do get sick, you will likely not be as sick, and you will recover faster than if you had not been vaccinated at all.
- Flu shots protect people with chronic health issues and pregnant women. The flu vaccine is an important preventative tool, especially if you have chronic health issues or if you are pregnant.
- Flu shots protect more than just those who are vaccinated. If you get vaccinated, you are not only protecting yourself, but you may also be protecting those around you from developing the flu as well. This is especially important for those who are vulnerable because of a weakened immune system such as babies, young children, elderly people and anyone with chronic health issues.
The Cons of Getting a Flu Shot
Of course, just like with anything else, there are disadvantages to getting the flu shot that you should be aware of. A few of the risks associated with getting a flu immunization include:
- You may still get sick. Unfortunately, not every strain of the flu is included in the vaccination, so there is still a chance that you can get sick if you are infected with a different type of flu virus.
- You may have an allergic reaction. Although rare, some people may have a negative reaction to the flu shot. Therefore, it is very important to speak with your doctor about any potential allergies before getting immunized. Typically, symptoms occur within minutes to hours after receiving the flu shot. These symptoms may include difficulty breathing, rash or hives, swelling around the eyes and mouth or feeling weak and dizzy. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek the help of a medical professional immediately.
- You may experience side effects. Flu shots are completely safe for the majority of those who get them. Also, it is important to note that you cannot contract the influenza virus directly from getting a flu shot. However, you should note that you may experience possible side effects from the shot including a low-grade fever, chills or headache or a swollen, tender area around the injection site.
Should You Get a Flu Shot?
Generally speaking, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to deciding whether or not to get a flu shot. Although there is a small chance that you may end up getting sick even after getting the flu shot, that does not mean that you should avoid getting the shot altogether because in most cases, it will protect you. Also, it is important to note that the side effects that you may experience after getting a flu shot are likely to be much less uncomfortable than actually contracting the flu virus.
In the end, it is important that you make the decision about whether or not you get a flu shot by doing your own research beforehand and consulting your health care provider. The decision to be immunized is a personal decision that you must make for yourself based on your health. Weigh the pros and cons of getting immunized, and if you decide to get a flu shot, speak to your doctor about where you can gain access to the immunization.
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