Seasonal flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. It affects millions of people across the United States every year, but despite its prevalence, many people underestimate the seriousness of this disease and the importance of getting vaccinated.
This article aims to shed light on the significance of seasonal flu vaccinations and dispel common misconceptions surrounding them.
Understanding the Flu Virus
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that affects millions of people in the United States annually. The disease is caused by one of several influenza viruses.
Each flu season brings different types of these viruses, contributing to the disease’s pervasive nature.
Contrary to some misconceptions, the flu is different from stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting. Influenza primarily infects your nose, throat, and lungs, causing symptoms from mild to severe.
These symptoms include:
- sudden fever
- extreme fatigue
- body aches
While many people might mistake the flu for a severe cold, it’s much more than that. The flu is a significant public health issue with considerable implications. Every year, the flu leads sickness and death in the U.S. – hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths.
While most young and healthy people can recover quickly at home after contracting the flu, older people and those with compromised immune systems can become seriously ill and need to be hospitalize.
Beyond the individual level, influenza outbreaks can lead to substantial societal and economic burdens, including increased healthcare costs and lost productivity.
The Role of Seasonal Flu Vaccinations
Flu vaccines stimulate your immune system to produce antibodies that combat the flu. Antibodies are special messengers in the body that remember the flu after you’ve gotten sick or vaccinated, so that if you get sick with the flu, your body knows exactly how to fight off the virus.
When you get vaccinated, you’re not just protecting yourself but also those around you. The less likely you are to get seriously sick, the less likely you are to pass on the flu to others. This concept, known as herd immunity, is crucial for protecting individuals who can’t get vaccinated, such as newborns, people with weak immune systems, or those with certain allergies.
Moreover, even if you contract the flu after vaccination, your symptoms will likely be less severe than if you hadn’t gotten the shot. This feature of the vaccine is particularly crucial for reducing the burden on healthcare systems during peak flu season.
Who Should Get Seasonal Flu Vaccinations?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone over six months, with rare exceptions. Certain groups are at a higher risk of developing severe complications from the flu, making vaccination even more critical. These include:
- older adults
- pregnant women
- young children
- people with chronic health conditions
Healthcare workers, caregivers, and medical providers are also strongly advised to get vaccinated, not just to protect themselves but also to prevent the spread of the virus to the people they care for.
What to Expect When Getting a Flu Vaccine
Getting a flu vaccine is a straight forward process. You can get the vaccine at various locations, including your doctor’s office, pharmacies, and sometimes even at your workplace. Two types of vaccines are available: the traditional shot and the nasal spray. You can expect some minor side effects, but they are far less severe than contracting the flu itself.
Addressing Common Misconceptions About Flu Vaccinations
Despite the clear benefits of flu vaccination, misconceptions persist.
Myth: The Flu Vaccine Can Give You the Flu
Flu vaccines don’t give you the flu. Instead, they use an inactivated virus that won’t harm your body or immune system. After you get vaccinated, you might feel some symptoms similar to the flu, but it’s not a true flu disease. The inactivated virus teaches your body what to look for when you get the actual flu virus, helping your immune system fight off the real virus.
Myth: Healthy People Don’t Need Vaccines
Another common myth is that healthy people don’t need to get vaccinated. While it’s true that healthy individuals may recover from the flu without serious complications, they can still spread the virus to others who might not be so lucky. By getting vaccinated, you’re helping to protect the most vulnerable members of your community.
Myth: The Flu Shot Does Not Keep People from Getting Influenza
The purpose of a vaccine isn’t to totally prevent you from getting the virus – the purpose is to prevent serious illness if you do get the flu. Even with a vaccine, you might still get the virus, but you’ll have much milder symptoms than without the vaccine.
Myth: You Don’t Need a Flu Shot This Year If You Got One Last Year
The flu virus changes every year. The virus adapts to new environments and can mutate to avoid last year’s vaccines. Therefore, the vaccines update every year to cover new types of flu viruses that emerge. That’s why getting an annual flu shot is a good idea.
Myth: The Flu Is Just a Bad Cold
Influenza is much more severe than the common cold. It can lead to complications like pneumonia and can even be fatal. These possibilities make it all the more important to get your flu shot.
Vaccinations for Seasonal Flu in Fairless Hills
Getting your annual flu vaccination is a simple yet effective way to protect your health and those around you. So, this flu season, make sure you get your shot – it’s your best bet for avoiding serious complications from influenza.The best time to get your flu shots is as soon as you can!
If you’re looking for a vaccine for the flu in Fairless Hills, visit Patient Care Now. We offer both urgent care and occupational medicine services — and that includes vaccinations. We’re open all week and cater to patients of all ages.Call our office at (267) 292-6433 to learn more about how to get vaccinated at Patient Care Now. We hope to help you live a happier and healthier life!