Why You Should Get a Flu Shot

Reasons to Get The Flu Vaccine

With the arrival of autumn, the new flu shots for the winter flu season are now available. The CDC estimates that only 45 percent of Americans receive flu shots in any given year. The flu sickens up to 20 percent of the total U.S. population, resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year. The flu usually peaks between January and March, and the flu season can linger into May. If you have not yet received a flu shot, it is recommended that you do so this autumn in order to receive maximum protection from the vaccine.

A variety of vaccine formats and types are available. In some areas and for certain patient populations, the vaccine may be available as a nasal spray. Some clinics and pharmacies may also stock the intradermal vaccine, which uses a 90 percent smaller needle than the standard flu shot. For adults aged 65 and above and other high-risk populations, a higher-strength flu vaccine is available to provide additional protection for these vulnerable groups.

Let’s examine some of the ways in which vaccination can benefit you and those around you this season.

1. Prevent spreading the flu to the most vulnerable

Holiday gatherings with family, friends, and co-workers generally occur in December and January, just before or right at the start of peak flu season. The combination of colder outdoor temperatures and dry indoor heating during the winter months actually increases the amount of time that flu virus remains in the air and on surfaces, making it easier for it to spread.

Additionally, seeing family and friends at the holidays can also bring people into closer contact with infants, elderly relatives, and people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and cancer. All of these individuals are at a much higher risk of contracting the flu, and some of them, including infants under six months of age, may not be able to receive a flu vaccine.

Therefore, if you are medically able to receive a flu vaccine, doing so can help protect your high-risk friends and loved ones from the flu and its serious complications. For some of them, your willingness to receive the vaccine may be the only protection they have.

2. Protect yourself from the most serious complications

According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is between 40 to 60 percent effective in preventing the flu. Although people who are vaccinated could still get the flu, their symptoms will most likely be less severe, and their illness will be of a shorter duration compared to those who did not get the vaccine.

Symptoms of the flu have a very rapid onset and can include severe body aches, chills, a high fever, vomiting, moderate to severe coughing, fatigue, and headaches. Occasionally, patients may also have cold symptoms such as runny nose and sneezing. Some patients who have influenza may not have a fever and may not have any vomiting.

The flu can lead to dehydration, which can sometimes require treatment with IV fluids. Other moderate complications may include sinus infections and ear infections. Severe complications that could become life-threatening include pneumonia, inflammation of the heart or other muscle tissues, and sepsis. People with chronic conditions who get the flu may experience worsening symptoms of these diseases during their flu. For example, asthmatic patients may have asthma attacks with the flu, and heart disease patients may struggle to manage their regular symptoms while ill with influenza.

While many people may believe that only children, those over 65, and those with chronic health problems are at risk for these serious complications, over 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur in adults aged 18 to 64. Everyone is at risk, and the flu symptoms can very serious within a short span of time. Even after the active flu symptoms dissipate, patients can experience fatigue that lingers for two to three weeks. Choosing to get the flu vaccine can lessen your risk of these debilitating complications and help you avoid the need for hospitalization.

3. Avoid lost productivity and income

Flu symptoms are incapacitating and typically leave people bedridden for at least one week of work. It would be very difficult to do office duties or even to do remote work during this time. Annually, approximately 17 million sick days are used across America due to the flu alone. According to figures released by the CDC, this results in over $16.3 billion in lost earnings and more than $10.4 billion in medical costs each year.

Many Americans work in jobs that do not offer paid sick leave. In order to avoid lost income, these employees may choose to try to report to work even while ill with the flu. This is a major reason for the spread of the disease. People who get the flu can spread it to others for up to 24 hours before they begin to show symptoms and for five to 10 days after that. If you do not have paid sick leave, getting a flu shot is absolutely crucial and could enable you to avoid a stressful workplace situation and protect your colleagues from the spread of the disease.

4. Protect your heart and overall health

Having the flu can increase your risk of a heart attack even if you are otherwise healthy. The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found that those who have the flu are at six times the normal risk of having a heart attack during the seven days after the first flu symptoms appear. In addition, the flu and some flu medications can raise both blood pressure and heart rate, putting additional stress on the body. Influenza may impact liver function test results. The flu can also cause low blood count results, including low platelets, low red blood cells, and low white blood cells.

To protect your overall health, your best defense against the flu is to get the flu vaccine and practice recommendations for proper hand washing.