Flu season in the U.S. commonly begins in October and can end as late as May. If you’ve been out of your home, watched television or browsed the internet these past few months, then you’ve probably spotted at least several reminders to get your annual flu shot.
Maybe you’ve been ignoring these messages. Well, now’s the time to listen! We hope this list of reasons to get a flu shot helps you change your mind.
Chronic Health Conditions Can Make the Flu Worse
The flu vaccine is especially important for those who suffer from chronic medical conditions. The CDC reports that on average, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for complications related to seasonal flu virus infections.
Health conditions such as these can increase your risk of flu complications:
- Heart disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Nervous system conditions
- Kidney/liver disease
Even Healthy People Need a Flu Vaccine
The flu is a contagious disease that affects your lungs and can turn into a serious illness like pneumonia. At the very least, having the flu can make you miss a ton of work or school. At the very worst, the flu can lead to hospitalization and even death.
While it’s true that pregnant people, young children, older people and people with certain medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes and heart disease) are more at risk of flu-related complications, people who don’t meet these characteristics still can develop complications. So, why risk it?
You’re Not Only Protecting Yourself
It’s true that if you don’t get a flu shot and get sick, you can still bounce back fairly quickly.
However, as we noted, the flu is a highly contagious disease. If you have it, you could spread the disease to people you come into contact with starting the day before symptoms appear and up to seven days after becoming sick.
Think about how many people you come into contact with in one week. Then, think about how many of those people are your family and friends. Don’t risk getting them sick.
Flu Shots Can’t Give You the Flu, Only Minor Side Effects
Let’s go ahead and dispel a common rumor: The flu vaccine does not cause people to get the flu. However, it can cause mild side effects:
- Body aches
- Sore throat
- Soreness on the arm where the shot was given
- Stuffy nose
These side effects are common and usually last one to two days. And they’re a whole lot better than getting the full-fledged flu.
Some people may also experience armpit pain after the flu shot. This is because lymph nodes are located in areas such as the armpit, neck and groin.
These lymph nodes are responsible for producing white blood cells meant to fight off infection. They can become inflamed after vaccinations, which causes minor discomfort.
[Related: How Do Allergy Shots Work?]
Scared of Needles? You Don’t Necessarily Have to Get a Shot
If you feel a bit squeamish around needles, other options exist that may allow you to get your vaccination safely and easily.
For people who are not pregnant and are aged 2–49, the nasal spray flu vaccine is a great alternative to getting a shot.
An intradermal needle is another option. It’s a needle so small that you don’t feel it at all. This can be used for adults aged 18–64.
Flu Shots for Seniors Are Safe and Recommended
If you’re a person older than 65 years, you might wonder whether it’s still safe to get the flu shot. The answer is yes.
Seniors actually have an increased risk of getting the flu because of the decline in immune response that comes with age. The CDC estimates that up to 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths and up to 70% of hospitalizations occur in people over the age of 65. The flu vaccine is effective at reducing these risks.
Luckily, two versions of the traditional flu shot exist that are especially for people 65 and older: the high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. These vaccines give older people the utmost protection against the flu.
If you fall in this age bracket, we suggest speaking with your doctor about which vaccine is best for you.
Insurance Usually Covers Flu Shots
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must cover preventive care, which includes treatments like the flu shot. Review your personal health care plan to see if any specific requirements are needed for your insurance to cover the vaccine.
For example, some plans might require certain health care providers in your network to administer the vaccine — you can’t just pop into a nearby pharmacy.
Flu Shot FAQ
Are you curious about something we didn’t cover above? Here are more common questions (and answers!) concerning flu shots.
How Often Do I Need a Flu Vaccine?
Remember that you need to get a flu shot every year to be fully protected against the changing flu virus strains. Additionally, your body’s immune system adapts to the vaccine, so an annual vaccine can help provide continuous protection.
When’s the Best Time to Get a Flu Shot?
The CDC recommends that people get their flu shots around September and October, before the flu season kicks in full force.
Can I Drink Alcohol Before My Flu Shot? What About Coffee?
You clearly shouldn’t stumble into your vaccine appointment tipsy, but what do the experts say about having a small glass of wine before your shot to take the edge off? Can you have a latte from the Starbucks across the street?
Although consuming alcohol and caffeine doesn’t directly interfere with the effectiveness of the shot, it may increase common side effects such as headache, nausea and weakness.
Where Can I Get My Flu Vaccine?
Many locations offer flu vaccines, such as doctors offices, clinics, health departments, retail stores, pharmacies, health centers and schools.
Do I Have to Get Both the COVID Booster and Flu Shot?
Because the flu shot and COVID-19 shot are two different vaccines, you’ll need to get each one to protect yourself from each disease. Each vaccine has different elements that give you increased immune response against influenza and coronavirus, respectively. Neither vaccine counteracts the other.
Additionally, while you should still get both, a recent study from The American Journal of Infection Control showed patients who received a flu shot had 24% lower odds of testing positive for COVID-19.
So, should you get the flu shot or booster first? Most people recommend getting the COVID-19 booster as soon as possible and then making sure you get the flu shot by the end of October.
How Long Until the Flu Vaccine Goes into Effect?
After you get the flu shot, it’ll take approximately two weeks for it to take full effect. In other words, if you’re exposed to the flu during that time window, there’s a chance you might catch the flu.
Contact Dr. Pasha Today!
Whether you’re suffering from year-round allergies or trying to prepare for flu season, we’re here for you. Confirm an appointment with Dr. Pasha and his team, and start feeling better today!
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