One of the easiest ways to protect yourself against the flu is by getting a flu shot every year. Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an illness of the respiratory system, specifically the nose, throat, and lungs. If infected, flu symptoms may come on quickly and include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

For some people, influenza can cause a lung infection (pneumonia) or worsen underlying health issues. Even healthy young people can become seriously ill or die from influenza. The flu is highly contagious, so it is passed around easily. Unsure if getting a flu shot is a necessary step? Here are seven reasons why you need to get a flu shot this year.

1. A Flu Vaccination Saves Lives

The flu can cause serious complications, such as ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, worsening of chronic conditions, and bacterial pneumonia which may necessitate hospitalization. Getting a flu shot can prevent new or worsened conditions which can be life-threatening to you or those around you.

2. The Flu Is More Dangerous Than You Think

According to this 2004 study conducted by the CDC, “more than 200,000 people are hospitalized in the United States each year for illnesses caused by seasonal influenza virus infections.” Not only can the flu cause you to need serious medical attention, but it can be fatal as well.

Adults with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes are more likely to suffer from significant sickness and complications from the flu. Other groups of adults with a higher risk for serious illness include:

  • People who have heart disease or have suffered a stroke
  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • Expectant mothers
  • Immunocompromised individuals
  • People suffering from cancer

3. The Flu Vaccine Is the Best Approach To Avoid Seasonal Influenza

The flu vaccine reduces a person’s chance of suffering flu-related illness severe enough to necessitate a doctor’s visit by more than 50%. The flu vaccine’s effectiveness can vary from year to year depending on a variety of factors, including how well the flu vaccine matches circulating flu viruses.

4. Last Year’s Flu Shot Won’t Be Effective

In order to maintain protection, you need to get vaccinated annually because your body’s immune response to the vaccination gradually declines. Also, influenza viruses are constantly evolving and changing. The strains included in the flu vaccination are reviewed and updated each year based on which version of the virus is most likely to cause disease at that time.

5. The Influenza Vaccine Does Not Cause the Flu

Some people believe that you can catch the flu by getting a flu vaccine. This is one of the most common myths about flu shots.

Getting a flu shot does not cause you to develop the flu because the vaccine uses an inactive form of the virus. Some people mistake the side effects of a flu vaccine as having gotten the flu itself.

6. The Adverse Effects of a Flu Vaccine Are Usually Minor

The vaccine may cause adverse effects such as headache, stuffy nose, or sore throat. Many people have no adverse effects, but if you do, they should only last a day or two. Given that the flu normally lasts one to two weeks and that the symptoms can be severe, flu vaccination is a preferable option.

7. The Earlier You Get a Flu Shot, the Better

Flu season usually starts in October and can last until May, so it’s important to get a flu shot as soon as possible. Ideally, the flu shot would work right away, but it takes your immune system about two weeks to make the antibodies it needs to fight off the flu and keep you from getting sick.

Protect Yourself Against the Flu

It’s easy to think of the flu shot as an optional part of your well-being, but getting a flu shot every year is an essential — and easy — preventative measure you can take to protect yourself against serious illness.

You still have time to get a flu shot this season, so schedule your flu vaccine today!