Photo: SELF x American Academy of Pediatrics
Flu season is upon us. So from now until April, I’ll be washing my hands a lot, avoiding sick people, and stocking my medicine cabinet. It’s also why I made sure to get my flu shot back in September. I have asthma, so I know it’s especially important for me to get the flu shot, since I’m considered high-risk.
It’s also the time of year when you’ll hear people claim, “I’ve never gotten the shot, and I’ve never gotten the flu!” Or, “The one year I got the shot, I swear I got the flu from it.” It’s important to remember that these stories are anecdotal. It’s best to stick to scientific facts: the single best way to protect yourself and others from the flu and potential complications is by getting the flu shot.
5 Fast Facts About the Flu Shot
1. Why is the flu shot so important?
The flu shot is our best defense against a dangerous virus that puts hundreds of thousands of people in the hospital every year.
- It can reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations, especially among children, people over 65, and people with chronic health conditions like asthma or heart disease.
- If you get a flu shot and still end up getting the flu, the shot may help reduce the severity of your sickness.
- It protects people close to you, in particular, infants and people with certain chronic health conditions. Remember: You’re not just getting the flu shot for yourself.
2. Who is most at-risk for flu complications?
Anyone who’s ever had the flu knows it doesn’t discriminate. It can knock out a young athlete in the same amount of time it does an 85-year-old. For this reason, everyone 6 months and older should get the flu shot. However, there are certain populations that are especially vulnerable and should always get the flu shot. This includes:
- Pregnant women
- Older people
- Young children (5 and under, but especially 2 and under)
- People with certain chronic health conditions
3. What’s the benefit of getting your shot early in the season?
The flu shot can take anywhere from three to six weeks to reach its full protection, so the earlier you get yours, the better. One shot will protect you for the entire flu season.
4. Can you get the flu from the flu shot?
This is one fact that bears repeating, the flu shot does not cause the flu. There is no live virus in flu shots. If you feel sick or experience flu-like symptoms after you get the flu shot, it’s likely you:
- Had already caught the virus before you got the shot
- Picked up the virus during the three to six weeks post-shot when you weren’t yet fully protected
- Caught a different strain of the flu (one not covered by the vaccine)
5. How effective is the flu shot?
Depending on what strain of the virus circulates this year, the flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting the flu by 40 to 60 percent.