It seems like every year we have a to-do list of tasks we have to get done—taxes, car tune-up, spring cleaning, change the batteries in the smoke alarm. And while these must-do tasks benefit us in one way or another, there is one more must-do you might want to consider adding to your list: get a flu shot!
So you’re thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not an infant, I’m not elderly, I’m not in any of the so-called high-risk groups, I eat right, I exercise—what’s the point?
Not so fast, my germ-carrying friend!
After consulting the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s vaccine info sheet, here’s a top ten list, plus a few additional points to consider when deciding if the flu shot is right for you.
Important Facts To Know About The Flu And The Vaccine
1. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions.
2. Influenza can cause high fever and seizures in children.
3. On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized every year because of influenza and 36,000 die, mostly elderly.
4. There are two types of influenza vaccines: Inactivated (killed), where the flu shot is injected into the muscle; live or attenuated (weakened), where it’s sprayed into the nostrils.
5. The flu virus is always changing and because of that, the vaccines are updated every year, which is why it’s recommended you get a flu shot every year. Besides, the shelf life of protection from the vaccine is only a year anyway.
Odds Are Good You’ll Be In One Of These Categories
6. Although anyone can get the flu, the highest rate of infection is among children. But when you look at the list of people who should get the flu vaccine, odds are pretty good you’ll fall into one of these categories:
• all children 6 months up to 5 years of age
• anyone 50 years or older
• anyone 6 months to 18 years old on long-term aspirin treatment
• women who will be pregnant during flu season
• anyone with long-term heath problems such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, and anemia
• anyone with a weakened immune system or certain muscle or nerve disorders, residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized each year because of the flu. Of those
people, nearly 36,000 will die.
Illustration by Sebastian Kaulitzki
7. The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone who lives with or cares for people at high risk for the flu, such as health care providers, household help, and caregivers of children and people 50 years and older.
8. And then it broadens its scope to say that the yearly influenza vaccination should be considered for people who provide essential community services, people living in dormitories or under other crowded conditions, and people who travel.
9. And just in case you’re feeling left out, the CDC recommends the flu vaccine for anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with the flu or spreading the flu to others.
10. The best time of year to get the flu vaccine is in October or November. But if you’re running a little behind this year, if you get vaccinated in December or even later, you’ll still reap the benefits. It’ll take about two weeks after you get the shot for protection from the flu to kick in.
Source: CDC 2007-08 Vaccine Information Sheet