Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious illness that spreads via tiny droplets from people coughing, sneezing, or even talking. When these droplets land in the mouths or noses of nearby people, they may get sick. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, fatigue, and more. Though the flu typically results in mild symptoms, it can lead to severe illness or even death.
While we have several ways of mitigating the spread of the flu such as good hand hygiene, covering your cough, wearing a mask, and staying home and isolating if sick or showing symptoms, your number one tool against the flu is an annual flu shot.
Flu Shots are For Most Everyone
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals six months of age or older get a flu shot, ideally before the end of October. Vaccination is especially important for people with a higher risk of flu-related complications, such as those with certain chronic health conditions, young children, the elderly, or pregnant women.
If you have experienced a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past or if you are uncertain if the flu vaccine is right for you, talk to your primary care provider.
It’s Needed Every Year
There are three main reasons why you should get your flu shot each year:
- The Virus Mutates: The influenza virus mutates heavily from season to season and is skilled at getting past our body’s immune defenses. The flu vaccine changes annually to account for these mutations.
- Limited Immune Response: Whether we have antibodies from a vaccine or from active infection, our immune response only lasts for about three to six months, so it needs to be boosted by the vaccine.
- Multiple Strains of the Flu: Generally, there are four different flu strains that circulate every year. Even if you catch one strain and develop an immune response, you could still catch any of the other three.
Flu Shot Side Effects
The most common side effect from any vaccine is a soreness around the injection site. This usually goes away within a few hours to a day. Other side effects, such as a headache or a low-grade fever, can occur as well. Before any vaccine is administered, your medical professional should obtain a targeted history assessing for any avoidable potential complications.
Calling the Shots
Flu season is the perfect time to update all vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Ask your provider about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more at peakvista.org/COVID.