This time of year, it seems advertisements and in-store placards imploring you to get a flu shot are everywhere. But many people dismiss the warning because they “never get sick.” Is it much ado about nothing?
Absolutely not! Influenza should be taken seriously, as it affects up to 20 percent of the U.S. population every year. On average, 200,000 Americans are hospitalized due to flu complications each year.
What’s even scarier is that the flu can make the respiratory tract more susceptible to bacterial infection and pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia is a major cause of mortality, especially in high-risk populations.
Everyone aged six months and older should get a flu shot, especially the following groups, as they are at the highest risk for contracting the flu:
- Anyone aged 65 or older
- Pregnant women
- Anyone with chronic disease such as a lung condition, heart disease, or diabetes
- People who smoke
- Anyone who lives with or cares for others who are at high risk
There are a few exceptions. Those who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome related to a previous flu vaccination should not get the vaccine, and those allergic to eggs should only receive egg-free forms of the vaccine. If in doubt, ask your phsycian.
What about those who think they don’t ever get sick? That may be true. If you’re healthy, you may experience only mild symptoms that feel like a cold and that you’re perfectly willing to fight off. The problem is that you may have contracted the flu and not even know it. Then, by spreading the virus, you unwittingly become part of the epidemic. That’s why it’s important for everyone to be vaccinated, including the entire family.
Finally, you’ve probably overheard someone say that the shot caused them to get the flu. Patently untrue. The fact is that it takes up to a month for the vaccination to become effective, but it only takes one to four days to develop the flu after exposure. So to those people, I say it’s not that the shot caused the flu, it’s that you didn’t get the shot soon enough.
There are different types of vaccines, including injection, nasal spray, and new versions that do not contain egg. If you haven’t already, please seriously consider getting a flu vaccination and speaking to your physician to see if you should have a pneumonia vaccination. You will keep yourself, your family, your co-workers, and everyone around you more healthy.