Blowing off this crucial vaccine can affect your loved ones, your wallet, and more.
Have you gone for your yearly flu shot yet? We hope the answer is yes—but statistically, it's probably no. That's because only two in five people report getting the vaccine annually, according to a 2016 CDC report. This is in spite of the fact that experts say it’s one of the best health measures you can take each season and will keep you from experiencing the awfulness of flu symptoms like a high fever, chills, and bad cough.
Maybe you're postponing it because you feel too overwhelmed right now with work. Or you're blowing it off completely because you're one of those people who insist they never get the flu anyway. Whatever your thinking is, give this list of reasons to get the vaccine a read—it might help you see the wisdom in rolling up your sleeve.
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You'll cut your flu risk roughly in half
True, the vaccine doesn't eliminate the possibility of contracting the flu, and how effective the flu shot is varies from season to season, says Laraine Washer, MD, hospital epidemiologist at University of Michigan Medical Center. But the vaccine used during the 2015-2016 flu season slashed the risk of getting it by roughly 50%, according to one study. And "studies in healthy young adults show that flu vaccination decreases risk of influenza-like illness by 40% to 60% when the flu vaccine is well-matched to circulating viruses,” Dr. Washer explains.
You won't develop more serious flu-related issues
While fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and a cough are the main symptoms of the flu, “some patients have headaches or a sore throat, and vomiting or diarrhea can occur more often in children,” says Dr. Washer. The real danger, however, is that a bout with the flu could lead to a much more alarming illness. “This includes pneumonia, or a serious complication of [an existing] chronic medical condition,” says Lisa Kearns, MD, MS, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Friends and family members will thank you
The vaccine isn't just about keeping you healthy. It also protects the people you know and love—as well as coworkers, neighbors, and strangers you might casually interact with. “Those most at risk include children, pregnant women or women who will be pregnant during flu season, anyone who has a compromised immune system, and people with asthma, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Kearns. “In general, adults older than age 50 are considered higher risk, as well.” But if you don't get the flu, then your grandmother, your best friend's new baby, your sister with asthma, and other members of vulnerable groups can't catch it from you.
Your won't put your life in danger
Lots of people still think of influenza as extremely unpleasant but relatively harmless. However, the CDC estimates between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations occur as the result of the virus on an annual basis. “In addition, from 12,000 to 56,000 deaths are associated with flu every year,” says Dr. Washer. Fatalities are generally caused by “pneumonia, dehydration, or worsening of other health problems,” she explains. Even if you're pretty healthy, it's still possible to end up with a case that could leave you out of commission for weeks.
You'll save money
While your health is the most important factor, getting sick hits you in the pocketbook too. First, there's the copay you need to fork over to see your doctor; next comes the money you'll drop at the drugstore to treat your fever, aches, and cough with over the counter products that can ease your flu symptoms. Depending on where you live, you could end up an average of $100—and that doesn't include what you lose if you've used up all your paid time off or your company doesn't compensate you on sick days.
You'll be protected for months
“You want to be sure to get the flu shot before influenza begins circulating in your community, so October is a good time to get your flu shot,” says Dr. Washer. She also notes that the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used this season. Dr. Washer says there are “concerns that it is not as effective as the flu shot.” Now is the best time to get that jab.
It's available almost everywhere
Your doctor's office, the local urgent care clinic, your company or campus health center, the pharmacy down the block—the flu vaccine is so widely available right now, it's almost impossible to claim that you don't have the time to drop into one of these venues and get inoculated. Not only is it easy to find, but getting the flu shot takes minutes, and you might even be able to score it for free.