By Dr. Joseph Vizzoni
Flu season is swiftly approaching, which means many doctors’ offices and pharmacies are now offering flu shots. It may be easy to ignore this if you’re not worried about becoming sick, but it’s always a good idea to get your flu shot if you’re able to. While the flu is usually not a serious concern in most young people who are in good health, it can be deadly to others. Trying not to get the flu yourself means that you’re helping to avoid spreading it to others.
Do You Really Need to Get the Flu Shot Every Year?
The flu shot is recommended for everyone six months and older, with exceptions for people with certain health conditions. Each flu season (throughout fall and winter), the most common strains of the flu change, which is why it’s important to get your flu shot every single year. Even if you miss the opportunity to get yours in September or October, getting your flu shot later in the season is still better than not getting it at all. Flu season in the United States peaks between December and February and can last through the end of April.
After you receive your flu shot, you may experience side effects like redness and swelling at the injection site. Even though you may also experience flu-like symptoms, the flu shot does not give you the flu. Side effects can also vary greatly between individuals.
What Happens If You Get the Flu Anyway?
Flu shots prevent millions of people from having to visit the doctor for flu-related sickness during peak flu season by forty to sixty percent. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s still possible to get the flu even after receiving the vaccine. The flu shot should be used along with other prevention methods like frequent handwashing, keeping your body strong with healthy food and fluids, and avoiding crowds when the flu is at its peak in your area.
If you do end up sick with the flu and are in generally good health, rest, hydration, and patience are usually enough to help you feel better. Symptoms should usually clear up within a week. See your primary care provider if symptoms persist. For those who have a higher risk of complications from the flu (like those with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), antiviral medication as prescribed by your primary care provider can be a helpful treatment.
Dr. Vizzoni is a medical director for AmeriHealth New Jersey.