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10 reasons to get a flu shot

If you’re thinking about forgoing a flu shot this season, Joseph DeVeau, M.D., a Piedmont primary care physician, gives you 10 reasons why you should reconsider.

1. A flu shot can save your life.

The flu can cause some serious complications that sometimes require hospitalization, such as dehydration, worsening of chronic illnesses, bacterial pneumonia, ear infections and sinus infections.

“Every year, about 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu,” says Dr. DeVeau.

In fact, influenza can lead to death in serious cases. During the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC estimates 80,000 people died.

2. Getting a flu shot can reduce your sick days.

Whether you are hospitalized or take time off to recuperate at home, it’s going to cost you and your employer. The flu accounts for 111 million lost workdays and nearly $7 billion in lost productivity and sick days annually, says Flu.gov.

3. Most people are eligible to get the flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made it easy to know who should get a flu shot.

“Pretty much anyone over six months of age should get a flu shot,” says Dr. DeVeau.

4. There is a needle-free flu vaccine.

Afraid of needles? No problem – a needleless flu vaccine is available.

“A nasal spray can be given to people between the ages of 2 and 49 who are healthy, not pregnant and don’t have asthma,” he says.

Another version, the intradermal shot, has a very small needle that can be used on people 18 to 64.

“Really, you can’t feel the needle at all,” he says.

5. There is a flu shot for older adults.

There’s the regular flu shot that’s given to people over the age of six months, as well as a version suitable for people 65 and over, which gives them even better protection against the flu.

6. You won't get the flu from the flu shot.

A common misconception is that you can contract the flu from a flu vaccine, but Dr. DeVeau says that is not possible because the shot uses a deadened form of the virus.

7. The flu shot changes each year. 

Before each flu season, the CDC determines which strains of influenza appear to most likely to occur that year. The vaccine will still reduce your chances of contracting certain strains of the virus and if you do get sick, having the vaccine can significantly reduce the severity of your symptoms.

“They kill that strain and they introduce it through the flu shot into our body,” he explains. “When your immune system comes into contact with that killed virus, it activates the immune system and creates antibodies. When you do come across the real flu, then you’re ready to fight it off and not get sick from the flu.”

8. Flu shot side effects are usually mild.

There are a few possible side effects from the vaccine, such as headache, stuffy nose or sore throat. While many people experience no side effects, if you do, they should only last for a day or so. Considering that the flu itself typically lasts for one to two weeks and the symptoms can be severe, the flu shot is a better alternative.

9. The sooner you get the flu shot, the better.

Flu season usually starts sometime in October and can last until May, so it is important to get vaccinated early.

“We used to want to wait until later in the flu season to give the shot, but because it’s so variable, the CDC now recommends that when you’re able to find a flu shot, you go ahead and get the flu shot at that time,” says Dr. DeVeau.

Ideally, the flu shot would take effect right away, but it takes about two weeks for your body’s immune system to create the necessary antibodies to fight off the flu so you’re protected against getting sick.

10. The flu shot helps with herd immunity.

“There’s a concept called herd immunity that refers to populations getting immunizations,” he explains. “If we all get immunizations, of course we can’t spread the virus elsewhere, so we’re all protected from it.”

The flu virus spreads easily – you can contract it when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes and droplets get in your nose or mouth. You can also get the flu by touching something that has the virus germs on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

“It’s easy to give to other people, and we see people all over the place, so you really are at risk,” says Dr. DeVeau. “The bottom line is definitely get your flu shot. It’s so important not only for yourself, but for the community to get your flu shot and keep us all protected.”

It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Flu shots are available at Piedmont’s urgent care locations, primary care offices and at many pharmacies.

Schedule your annual physical with a Piedmont primary care physician. Save time, book online.

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