The flu brings on miserable symptoms such as fever, body aches, coughing, and weakness. In some cases, the flu can lead to serious complications and even death. The side effects of the flu can largely be avoided by getting a flu shot. Unlike many vaccinations that last for years or a lifetime, the flu vaccine is one that you should get every year. Read on to learn why it’s important to get a flu shot every year.
Understand the function of the flu shot.
Flu shots work by stimulating your body to develop antibodies that protect you from the most common strains of the flu. The flu vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses, but it is full of flu viruses that have been inactivated and can’t cause infection. As a result, you experience an immune response and build up resistance to certain strains of the flu without actually experiencing illness or infection.
Flu strains change quickly.
Every season, a variety of flu viruses are out there, waiting to infect your healthy cells. The flu virus is adept at mutating, so the antibodies from last year’s shot aren’t likely to protect you against the prevalent strains of this year. Strains can even mutate in the middle of the season.
Each year, researchers set out to predict which strains are most likely to spread and place antibodies against those strains into the vaccine. A flu vaccine can’t protect you against every strain of the flu, but it’s the best protection against infection. If you get the flu shot and do contract the virus, your symptoms are likely to be less serious.
Who needs a flu shot?
Everyone should get a flu shot. Certain populations are at particular risk of developing serious flu complications and should make every effort to be vaccinated. These include the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, young children, and pregnant women. Children older than six months can receive the vaccine.
Complications can include severe symptoms that require hospitalization, pneumonia, and even death. In 2017, 80,000 people died from influenza.
Types of flu vaccines
For most people, one dose of the standard flu shot can be administered with a needle, for people five and older, or with a jet injector for people 18-64. Flu shots don’t always have to be delivered with a needle. The elderly may also benefit from a high-dose vaccine that offers extra protection.
Nasal sprays that deliver the flu vaccine are available.
Effectiveness of flu vaccines
In an average year, the flu vaccine reduces your risk of developing the virus by 60%. In some years, researchers have trouble isolating the top strains, or the virus mutates so much that the vaccine is only 20-30% effective for the overall population. Regardless, a flu vaccine can protect you and reduce the severity of symptoms even if you do fall ill.
The flu vaccine is available at the offices of South Plains Rural Health Services. Everyone in your family can get vaccinated at this welcoming family practice, so you’re all protected.