The flu. We all know what it is and that it occurs every year between October and April. We hear that it is important to get a flu vaccination, but do you know why it is important and why you need to get one every year?
Influenza is a virus that can lead to serious illness, hospitalization, and even death. It is extremely contagious and is spread by droplets from people coughing, sneezing, or talking or by touching a surface that has the flu virus on it. The CDC estimates that there were 27 to 54 million flu illnesses, 12 to 26 million flu-related medical visits, 300,000 to 650,000 flu-related hospitalizations, and 19,000 to 58,000 flu-related deaths during the 2022-2023 flu season.
The flu vaccine can reduce your risk of getting the flu by 40 to 60% and could save your life. During the 2021-2022 flu season, vaccination prevented 1.8 million flu-related illnesses, 1 million flu-associated medical visits, 22,000 flu-associated hospitalizations, and almost 1,000 flu-associated deaths.
It is best to get the flu vaccine before the end of October before peak flu season. It can take up to two weeks after you receive the vaccine to be fully protected. Getting the flu shot can reduce the number of sick days you have to take off from work. It is recommended to get a flu shot every year because the strains of the flu that appear each year are different. Each year, before flu season, the CDC determines which strains of flu are most likely to appear in the U.S. and the four strains most likely to appear are put in the vaccine.
Getting the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The vaccine triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to protect against the flu. If you are exposed after getting the shot, your body already knows how to fight the virus and will respond faster to fight it. The vaccine might cause some soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, low grade fever and aches. These side effects are generally mild and only last a day at most.
The flu vaccine is also an important preventative tool for people with chronic conditions. It has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events in people with heart disease. A study in 2022 showed that the flu vaccination reduced a child’s risk of severe life-threatening influenza by 75%.
Getting the flu vaccine can protect those around you who are unable to get the vaccine and are more vulnerable to complications from the flu. Those at most risk of developing complications for the flu are people over 65 and children, especially babies less than six months who can’t get a flu vaccine. Complications from the flu include pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and worsening of chronic conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, and asthma.
Please consider getting your flu shot to protect yourself and those around you.
– Candice Hutchins RN Health West Pediatric