The flu is much more than an illness that simply leaves you bedridden for a few days. In some cases, it can lead to hospitalization and even death; in fact, estimates by the Centers for Disease Control say that flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 number in the hundreds of thousands.
With numbers like those, the importance of immunizations is obvious.
What is The Flu?
Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause moderate to severe health complications – from ear infections to pneumonia while triggering other severe issues such as inflammation of the heart and multi-organ failure. Typical flu symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle and body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea, particularly in children
How Does The Flu Vaccine Work?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body that protect against infections caused by the disease. Vaccines are available both by injection and nasal spray, although the CDC recommends not using the nasal spray as protection against the flu in 2016-17.
There are two types of flu vaccines available, trivalent and quadrivalent. Trivalent vaccines are so named because they consist of three components, and includes a high-dose shot that’s approved for people 65 and over. Quadrivalent vaccines consist of four components.
Trivalent vaccines are considered more traditional and protect against the H1N1 and H3N2 viruses and an influenza B virus. Quadrivalent vaccines protect against an additional B virus.
Who Should Get The Flu Vaccine?
The CDC recommends that everyone six months or older should get an annual flu shot. The vaccination is important for everyone, but especially so for those who are at high risk for influenza complications – including pregnant women, older adults, and young children.
Also, certain chronic medical conditions can increase your risk of serious flu complications, such as asthma, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory complications, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, obesity, and kidney or liver disease.
Why Should I Get A Flu Shot Every Year?
The flu virus changes every year, and new vaccines designed to keep with those changes are released annually. Last year’s vaccine might not protect you from this year’s virus, while antibodies produced by your immune system decline over time.
Who Shouldn’t Be Vaccinated?
You should check with your physician before getting the flu vaccine if you’re allergic to eggs (most flu vaccines contain a small amount of egg protein), or if you’ve had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine.
When Should I Get The Vaccine?
You should get immunized as soon after the latest flu vaccine becomes available, which is typically in early fall. But vaccinations are usually offered as long as viruses are circulating. Most flu seasons usually peak in January and even later.
The bottom line is that the flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself from the flu and potentially serious complications that come with it. And flu shots are now widely available – including at pharmacies – and don’t require an appointment.