Most people consider the flu (or influenza) to be a typical fever with aches and pains. That fever, however, usually affects 300,000 to 600,000 people a year. About 200,000 people end up in the hospital as a result, and an average of up to 49,000 don’t survive. A flu shot can help prevent you from getting the flu, but rumors of the vaccine giving you the virus and affecting prior allergies have people reluctant to get one. So, the question remains: Should you get the flu shot or not?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of six months get a flu vaccine by the end of October every year, as flu viruses change from year to year. For the 2016-2017 flu season, the CDC recommends that only injectable flu shots should be used because concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine . That being said, the flu shot isn’t for everyone. Here’s a list of pros and cons for you to determine whether it’s worth it for you and your family:
- It reduces the risk of getting the flu and of flu-associated hospitalization for children and older adults: The CDC states that vaccines reduce the risk of flu illness by about 50 percent to 60 percent among the overall population. The flu shot reduced children’s risk of being admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit by 74 percent, according to a 2014 study. Similarly, a 2016 study showed that people over the age of 50 who received the flu shot reduced their risk of hospitalization by 57 percent.
- It protects those with chronic health conditions: Getting the flu shot has been associated with reduced hospitalizations by 79 percent for people with diabetes and by 52 percent for people with chronic lung disease.
- It protects pregnant women during and after their pregnancy: Pregnant women who get a flu shot reduce the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection by 50 percent.
- It can’t give you the flu: Contrary to popular belief, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. Flu vaccines are made either with a flu vaccine that has been inactivated and is not infectious or has no flu vaccine at all.
- It works for people who are even allergic to eggs: Rumors about the flu shot affecting people who have egg allergies have been defused. The CDC recommends that anyone who is allergic to eggs can get the flu vaccine; however, those who have serious side effects should still be supervised by a health care provider who can supervise allergic conditions.
- It only reduces the possibility of getting the flu: As previously stated, the flu shot can prevent you from getting the flu, but it is not guaranteed, and it will not boost your immune system. If your immune system is already weak, you could still be affected by the virus.
- It takes a couple weeks to go into effect: If you get a flu shot, it can take at least two weeks to go into effect, which means you are still vulnerable during that time. It’s important to get the shot during the recommended times (before the season really kicks in during October and November) to avoid getting the flu.
- There can be uncomfortable side effects: The flu shot can cause soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling, as is common with most shots. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches can also occur.