You may have heard that you’ll get sick from the flu shot. Or you may think the flu is just a worse version of the common cold. But in reality, the flu can be quite serious. I tell my patients that vaccination is the best protection from certain strains of the influenza virus.
By getting vaccinated, you’re making the choice to protect yourself and others from a bad case of the flu. And the vaccine’s safety has been tested for more than 50 years.
Still not convinced? Here are the top reasons why you and your family should get the flu shot.
1. The flu shot can save your life.
Flu can be deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 35 million people were sick with the flu last year. Of those, 490,600 were hospitalized, including 46,000 children under the age of 18. More than 32,000 people died of flu-related illness.
It’s true that the flu vaccine does not always protect you from every strain of flu during flu season, but it does protect you from the most common. And because of that, getting vaccinated every year significantly reduces your risk of getting the flu.
The best time to get vaccinated is in the early fall months. But you may get the flu shot anytime during the flu season, which generally starts in November and ends in March.
2. You cannot catch the flu from the flu vaccine.
There are different types of flu vaccines, and they’re made in different ways:
- The flu shot is made from one flu virus protein or from an inactivated virus.
- The nasal form of the flu vaccine is made from live viruses that have been weakened.
Neither of these vaccines can cause you to get sick.
When you get a flu vaccine, your body builds up antibodies to fight against infection with the virus. This process takes about 2 weeks, so it is possible to catch the flu while your body builds up immunity.
Some people may experience side effects from the flu vaccine. This includes soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea or tiredness. This is true of many medications. Side effects from the flu vaccine generally go away on their own within a day or two.
Although it’s rare, some people may have an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. Call your doctor if you experience trouble breathing, swelling or other signs of an allergic reaction.
3. Healthy people benefit from the flu shot.
The CDC recommends the influenza vaccine (flu shot) for everyone 6 months of age and older, including pregnant women.
Flu vaccine helps:
- Reduce your chance of having to go to the doctor or the emergency room with flu-related illness
- Lessen the severity of your symptoms if you do get the flu
- Keep you from spreading the flu to those around you, like your family and friends
- Protect your baby from flu for several months after birth, if given to the mother when she is pregnant
- Prevent children from dying of complications associated with flu
Although children under age 6 months are most at risk of being hospitalized with flu, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any flu vaccination for children under age 6 months. The CDC recommends vaccination for parents, siblings, and grandparents who will be near an infant, to keep them protected.
There are also other exceptions, such as those who are allergic to any ingredients that make up the vaccine. When in doubt, talk to your doctor about your risk.
4. The flu is not just a ‘bad cold’.
Because the common cold and flu share similar symptoms, many people think flu is a more severe form of cold. Cold and flu are both respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by different viruses.
When you get a cold, you’re more likely to experience a runny nose and cough. Cold rarely leads to complications, and symptoms usually resolve within 1–2 weeks.
With flu, your symptoms can be more severe and may include fever, chills, sore throat, cough, body aches, headache, and fatigue. If not treated, flu can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia, or even death.
5. There are different ways to get vaccinated.
The flu vaccination is most commonly given as an injection, but it’s also available as a jet injector or nasal spray. Which one is right for you depends on several factors, including your age, general health and certain risk factors.
Every year, manufacturers make vaccines with different features, including those that are made:
- With and without egg, for people with egg allergies
- Containing a special ingredient to boost immunity for those age 65 and older
- Specifically for people of certain age ranges, such as ages 2 through 49
Flu shot injection
The flu vaccine injection, or flu shot, is given with a needle in the arm. For the 2020–2021 flu season, there are 9 injectable flu vaccines on the market, each with specific features.
Flu vaccine by jet injector
A jet injector flu vaccination is given with a medical device that uses a “jet stream” of fluid to penetrate your skin. No needle is used. One vaccine is currently on the market for those age 18 to 64.
Nasal spray flu vaccine
A nasal spray flu vaccine may be given to healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49, except for pregnant women. The nasal spray flu vaccine contains weakened flu viruses that cannot live or multiply in the lungs. There is currently one brand of nasal spray available for the 2020–2021 flu season.
Not all formulations will be available to everyone. Be sure to ask your doctor which type of flu vaccination is right for you, and where or how to get your flu shot.
Where to get the flu shot
It used to be that you had to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor to get the flu vaccine. But these days, besides your doctor’s office, you can get a flu vaccine at your local pharmacy or urgent care center without an appointment. When in doubt, call first.
Contact your Temple doctor at 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) or visit your local urgent care center such as Temple ReadyCare to get a flu shot.
While earlier is usually better, it’s never too late to get the flu vaccine.