North Atlanta Primary Care

6 Reasons People Avoid the Flu Shot - And Why You Shouldn’t

Reason #1: “I’m healthy. I don’t need the flu shot.” Reality: Anyone can get the flu. About 5% to 20% of Americans become infected every year, causing more than 200,000 hospitalizations. That’s why the CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone age six months and up, starting in October. If the fear of getting sick isn't enough to make you get one, do it for others. Getting the vaccine is about protecting yourself, but … it's also about protecting the people around you. Those most at risk of flu-related complications include babies and young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with chronic health issues. Reason #2: “It’s too late to get the flu shot.” Reality: While experts generally recommend that you should get the shot as soon as it becomes available, the vaccine is helpful throughout flu season. The optimal time for the shot is in October, but flu season lasts through March. Reason #3: “The flu shot gives you the flu.” Reality: It's impossible. The vaccine is made from viruses that aren't active. Flu shots are made with inactivated flu virus, which cannot give you the actual flu. The most common reaction is soreness or redness at the site of the actual infection. A very small percentage of people will get a low-grade fever and aches as their body builds up an immune response, but this will only last one to two days, and is not a reason to avoid the flu shot. Once you've had the shot, it takes about two weeks to build up immunity. During that time you may feel flu-like side effects, such as headaches or a mild fever. And there's always the chance that you may come down with the flu if you were exposed to it right before or after the shot, before your body's had time to develop immunity. Reason #4: “Why should I get the shot? There are drugs that treat the flu.” Reality: There are prescription anti-viral medications that one can take if they’re diagnosed with the flu, but you don’t want to rely on them. That’s because they don’t “cure” the flu. At best, they’ll make you feel better only about 16 to 24 hours earlier than you would have without the medications. Plus, they have to be started within 48 hours of getting sick, which can be tough to do in real life. If you do get the virus and end up taking those pricey prescription antivirals, they’ll only lessen the symptoms and shorten the illness by one or two days. And that’s if the prescription meds even work. They’re not a cure-all, and they’ve been known to cause side effects like nausea and diarrhea. Avoid the flu altogether, and get the vaccine. Reason #5: “I'll probably catch the flu anyway.” You may also still be injured in a car crash even if you wear a seat belt. But that doesn’t that mean we should ditch seat belts. The flu vaccine cuts your risk of getting the flu by 50-70 percent (not to mention, even if you do get the flu, it reduces your flu symptoms substantially). Every year, scientists attempt to predict which strains of the flu virus will be most prevalent that fall. It’s a tough estimate, as the flu can mutate quickly over months, and sometimes even within a single season. But if you do end up catching the flu, you'll have a much milder case of it. There’s also a new version of the flu vaccine this year (called “cell-based”), which was not made in eggs and may be more effective than the traditional flu shots. Reason #6: “The flu isn’t a big deal.” If you’re thinking this, then you’ve probably never had the flu. Go visit the ER in January and February—you’ll see people of all ages, dehydrated and feeling miserable. Even worse, certain groups of people are even more vulnerable and can develop deadly complications from the flu—specifically: • Children under 2 • Adults over 65 • Women who are pregnant • People with asthma, COPD, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, and all other chronic medical conditions • People who are morbidly obese Thousands of people die every year in the U.S. from the flu—as many as 49,000, with over 200,000 hospitalized. Get your flu shot!

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