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Is Getting the Flu Shot Worth It?

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As a public health nurse my answer to this question is a resounding and exuberant “YES! It is worth getting a flu shot!” And I would quickly follow that up with “Do you want the shot in your right or left arm?” with an alcohol pad at the ready to disinfect my injection site.

With so much misinformation about what a flu shot does or doesn’t provide, it’s no wonder people get confused.

“Prevention” is every public health nurse’s mantra and getting a flu shot is the first step in preventing the flu.

With few exceptions, flu shots are recommended for anyone 6 months old or older, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  Here are three good reasons the flu shot is worth it:

REASON #1: The flu shot can actually prevent you from getting the flu.

Reap the benefits of all the research done to predict the flu viruses that will be most common during the flu season! Influenza is a serious and contagious respiratory illness that can lead to complications, hospitalizations, even death.

The bonus to getting yourself vaccinated for flu is that you also protect your loved ones and others in your community from getting the flu as well. You may not have a newborn or grandma living with you at home, but I promise you, the people behind you in the checkout lane who are about to touch the same flat surface or keypad that you just coughed on, do.

So do your part in preventing illness and its spread and get your flu shot.

REASON #2: The flu shot can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations.

There are studies that indicate a reduced risk for flu-related hospitalizations for both children and older adults. Of the thousands of flu-related deaths every year, 80-90% of them occur with people 65 years old or older. The flu shot has been associated with preventing hospitalizations among people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.

In case your aversion to hospitals is greater than your aversion to getting the flu, allow me to remind you that a visit to the hospital is no joy ride.  There is no dignity in those backless gowns, there’s no real privacy with aides, nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors coming in and out of your room. Oh and let’s not forget the tab that is racked up whilst providing you that memorable experience. Need I say more?

REASON #3: The flu shot can make your illness milder if you do get sick.

Let’s be clear, a flu shot does not guarantee protection against the flu. However, a flu shot does initiate the production of antibodies in your body.

Your immune protection begins two weeks after immunization. So if you do end up getting the flu, the fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, and fatigue can be milder than if you went without the flu shot. If you have milder symptoms you are also less likely to suffer complications that can lead to hospitalization and we have already established why we want to avoid that.

Which leads me to another important point…The flu shot does NOT cause you to have flu.

Viruses that cause the common cold produce similar symptoms as the flu and they are just as contagious and ubiquitous during flu season. This is where good old fashioned hand washing with soap, water, and vigorous scrubbing action play an important role in decreasing or getting rid of the viruses you have picked up from the light switch, door handles, gas pumps, elevator buttons, keyboards etc.

Have a cough? Don’t share! Contain those germs in a tissue and toss it immediately! Hand sanitizers are a good substitute if you are not able to some water and soap.

Is getting the flu shot worth it?  You don’t have to take my word for it, talk to your healthcare provider or check out more over at the CDC’s website.

Wishing all of you a healthy, safe, and flu vaccinated holiday season!

Ivonne Rivera-Newberry BS RN

Ivonne Rivera-Newberry, RN, BSN is the Assistant Director at Reno County Health Department in Kansas. She is completing a Master in Public Health at the University of Kansas. Ivonne is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Health Nurse Leader Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @Ivonnephn or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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2 Responses to Is Getting the Flu Shot Worth It?

  1. I used to never get my flu shot until I was required to get it in order to work at a hospital. Now I get it every year to keep myself and my family healthy. I also got the pneumonia shot when I was hospitalized. I have seen my Mother with the flu and I don’t want to go through what she went through. If your insurance covers it or even if you have to pay a small co-pay, why not get it?

    • Khristina there was one year I missed getting the flu shot. I kept putting it off because I was too busy. Well, that was the year I got the flu and I was so miserable. It really does hit you like a ton of bricks.

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