You know it’s flu season when everyone around you starts sneezing, coughing, and generally looking miserable. With so many germs being spread around, you feel like everything you touch is contaminated (and it probably is!). You can’t help wondering if it’s just a matter of time before you and eventually your entire family gets sick, too. You may also hear a lot of talk about getting a flu shot, but is it really helpful? We’ll help you decide if this act of illness prevention is right for you.
What it does
A typical flu vaccination contains enough of the flu virus so that your body can fight it and create an anti-flu immunity in the process without actually making you sick. While it’s still possible to get sick in the two weeks after you get a flu shot (that’s how long it takes for the shot to take effect), there hasn’t been any medical proof that people can get sick from the shot itself.
Flu shots are not 100% guaranteed to prevent sickness, so even though it’s still possible to get the flu after the shot, it will be milder than those who haven’t had the injection. Even if you get the shot, it’s still a good idea to practice good flu prevention techniques.
When to get it
Flu season is considered to run from October through to May. Since it takes about two weeks for a flu shot to be effective, experts advise to try to get your shot before the season starts up, such as in September or October. In other words, the earlier you get your shot, the better.
Who should get it
Since people have different medical backgrounds and conditions, it’s always advisable to double check with your doctor before getting any kind of injection that affects your health. In general, however, since the effects and ingredients of the shot are mild, experts recommend that everyone from babies (six months and up) to seniors get it. Those who are particularly vulnerable to developing complications after getting the flu are especially encouraged to get the shot, like seniors over 50 (especially if they live in nursing homes), women who will be pregnant during the flu season, caregivers, health care workers, and adults with chronic heart or lung conditions.
What to expect
The flu shot is an injection into the muscle, and while it doesn’t hurt at the time, there can be a little soreness and/or swelling the next day. Some people report getting cold-like symptoms (such as runny nose, body aches, and headache), but this will subside after a couple of days.
While this shot is not a miracle cure, it is an effective way to keep the flu from putting you out of commission for the days you’re sick and most likely contaminating those around you. So if you know you’re going to have a busy season that’s going to leave no room for being sick, you might want to consider getting a flu shot. That way while everyone is coughing their germs all over the place, you can go forward this year with the confidence that something like a little virus isn’t going to hold you back.