Most of the time, coming down with the flu is an annoying inconvenience. You might be forced to stay home sick for a few days, but with rest you’ll recover with time. But in some cases it can become a more serious condition leading to pneumonia, hospitalization, or even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year millions of people get the flu, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes.
The good news is that you can protect yourself by getting a flu shot.
I recommend everyone six months and older get a flu shot, especially the very young and older populations. It’s also a good idea for those who share a household with these populations to get vaccinated to help avoid exposing them to potential infection. In addition, anyone who works in healthcare, schools and daycares need to make sure they get vaccinated.
A common misconception is that getting a flu shot will give you the flu. This is a myth – the virus is inactivated in the vaccine so it can’t transfer the disease. However, you may experience flu-like symptoms after getting vaccinated. This is just your body’s immune response to the vaccine.
Flu season in the United States typically runs from late October through early May. Because it takes two weeks for your body to develop an antibody response, the best time to get vaccinated is in October. You can also get vaccinated through the end of January and still gain protection from the disease.
One thing that’s important to remember is that you need to get vaccinated every year. Every season is different because the flu virus is constantly changing and evolving. So you need to get revaccinated every year to stay protected against the current strains. Also, your body’s immune response to the vaccine weakens over time, making it necessary to get the vaccine annually.
There are many locations that offer flu vaccines, including your primary care physician’s office, local health departments and pharmacies. You may also be able to get vaccinated at work if it’s required for your job. Typically flu vaccines are covered by health insurance under preventive care. To learn more, reach out to your health insurance provider to find the nearest locations to get vaccinated and learn what’s covered under your plan.