When it comes to getting a flu shot, it's easy to just think, "I'm healthy. I don't need a shot." Or maybe you know you need one, but you're avoiding it because you don't like shots or think getting one is inconvenient.
No one likes getting shots, but the flu shot is worth it — we promise.
"The flu vaccine is the best tool we have to protect ourselves from getting the flu," explains Dr. Broussard, primary care physician at Houston Methodist.
Dr. Broussard has four pretty convincing reasons why you should make plans to get a flu shot today.
Anyone can get the flu
Flu season runs from October to April, and regardless of whether you're healthy or not — you're susceptible. And Dr. Broussard warns against falling into the trap of believing common myths about the flu vaccine.
"The reality is that anyone can get the flu, even if you're healthy," says Dr. Broussard. The best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot every single year."
Dr. Broussard also says that some individuals are more vulnerable to the flu, such as babies, young children and the elderly. In addition, pregnant women can protect themselves from the risk of developing acute respiratory infection by getting a flu shot.
The flu can also trigger symptoms of chronic conditions, such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Dr. Broussard recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get his or her flu shot, but she stresses that getting a flu shot is especially important for those most vulnerable.
Getting a flu shot is about more than protecting just you
Getting your flu shot every year is about more than just protecting yourself. It's also about protecting the people around you.
"Some groups of people — like young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems — don't benefit from the flu vaccine as much as the rest of us," explains Dr. Broussard. "By getting your flu shot, you're helping to prevent more vulnerable people around you from getting sick. For instance, if you live with someone who is undergoing cancer treatment and is considered immunocompromised, it's very important you help protect him or her from the flu by getting your flu shot."
Getting a flu shot should also be a priority for women who are pregnant or lactating, since immunity to the flu virus can be passed on to a baby through the umbilical cord or breast milk.
"Remember, babies under 6 months of age can't be vaccinated. It's especially important for pregnant or lactating moms to get their flu shot so they can help pass on their immunity to their baby," explains Dr. Broussard. "It's safe to get a flu shot during any trimester of your pregnancy."
It takes two weeks for the flu shot to be fully effective
If you've made it this far, hopefully you're convinced that you really do need a flu shot. But now let's talk about why you should go get your flu shot today.
"Peak flu season is between January and February," says Dr. Broussard. "But if you're thinking you can wait until your family members, friends or coworkers start getting sick, you may want to think twice."
Dr. Broussard says that it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to fully prepare your body to ward off the flu. In this two weeks, the flu vaccine is encouraging your body to create the antibodies that can help you fight the flu virus.
Even if it's not peak flu season, you should still get your flu shot as soon as you can.
"Flu season is unpredictable, and even if it's later in the flu season, you should still get the vaccine," advises Dr. Broussard. "You can get a flu shot at your primary care physician's office, a pharmacy, urgent care clinic or even a flu vaccine drive."
The flu vaccine saves lives
The flu spreads from person to person, and the more we do to prevent the spread of the flu virus the less illness there will be in our communities. And while it may be easy to brush off just how bad the flu is if you haven't had it in a while, the numbers speak for themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that during the 2017-2018 flu season the flu shot prevented about:
- 6.2 million cases of the flu
- 3.2 million medical visits for flu-like symptoms
- 91,000 flu-related hospitalizations
- 5,700 flu-related deaths
"At the end of the day, the flu is a seasonal epidemic that can sometimes be deadly," says Dr. Broussard. "The more we do to prevent it from spreading, the better the outcomes for all of us."