As the temperature drops, cold and flu season approaches. A flu shot is your best method of protection against the flu every year. Learn more about why you need an annual flu shot to stay healthy.
Maybe you don’t think you need a flu shot, or maybe you get your flu shot every year, but you’re not sure why. National Influenza Awareness Week, December 2-8, is the ideal time to learn more. Rakesh Malik, MD, Masoud Djahanmir, MD, and the team at Doctors First are here to explain why you should get a flu shot at the start of the new cold and flu season.
The flu virus changes every yearEach year, a new flu vaccination is developed. You need a flu shot annually for two reasons. Flu viruses are constantly evolving, so vaccines are updated to match the latest strains of the virus. Second, your body’s immune response to last year’s vaccination loses strength over time, making last year’s flu shot no help this year. An annual flu vaccination offers many benefits. The biggest (and most obvious) benefit is that it can keep you from getting sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2017 flu vaccine prevented about 5.3 million cases of influenza in the United States. Flu vaccination helps you stay healthy during flu season and makes it less likely that you will be hospitalized for flu-related conditions. If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes or heart disease, flu shots have been shown to help reduce risk of hospitalization due to illness.
How flu shots workIn general, we recommend that everyone who is 6 months old or older get a flu vaccine each season. The flu shot causes antibodies to develop in your body. Antibodies protect you from contracting the flu infection and getting sick. Each year’s seasonal flu shot protects against the strains of flu that are most likely to be prevalent. Most flu shots protect against three or four strains of the flu. There are a few different kinds of flu shots, and they are administered primarily based on your age. No type of flu shot is better than another, because they all help protect you from getting sick. While it’s still possible for you to get the flu even if you’ve received the shot, your risk is greatly reduced. And by getting a flu shot, you help keep your community healthier, too.
Getting your flu shotThe flu shot can take about two weeks to fully develop the antibodies in your body that protect you from the flu. To give your body time to build up this defense, you should try to get your flu shot no later than the end of October every year, before flu season really hits. But it’s never too late to get a flu shot. Many primary care offices offer flu shots well into January each season, because even late vaccination can help you fight the season’s strain of the flu. So if you still haven’t had your flu shot this year, it’s not too late. It’s not hard to find a place to get your annual flu vaccine. And the flu shot is free under many insurance plans. Of course, we offer the flu shot at Doctors First, but you can often get your flu shot at:
- Any primary care physician’s office
- Urgent care centers
- College health centers