Getting the flu shot might be on the bottom of your to-do list. It's inconvenient, it's an annoyance, and it's a little bit painful. But you know what else is inconvenient, annoying, and painful? THE FLU. Changing barf crib sheets at 3:00 am (because kids don't know how to throw up in the toilet). Fevers, chills, coughs, colds, vomiting, diarrhea – the whole package. Any way you look at it, it's bad. It's bad for your average healthy adult, and it's even worse for those with compromised immune systems.
I know when we think about the flu, we understand it to be an uncomfortable virus that will eventually pass, but for babies and kids, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems – it can lead to death. Seriously, this is something that people are actually dying from. This year's flu season is an especially bad one. It's hitting early, it's hitting hard, and it's spreading quickly.
I know that a lot of people are skeptical about the reasoning behind the flu shot. But getting one is worth a shot (pun intended), and here are 5 reasons why.
1. People are dying. You're strong and healthy. Your family is strong and healthy. If you get the flu, you can all handle it. It sucks, but you'll be okay. But what about those other people you inadvertently and unknowingly pass your virus to? The old neighbor next door. The preschooler that has respiratory issues and gets wiped out by most viruses. The baby sibling of school age children. These people are at a huge risk. They could end up in the hospital. They could end up with pneumonia. They could end up dangerously sick – but there's something you can do to help. Vaccinate your family. Protecting your own family will also help to protect them.
2. It protects people. If the flu shot is only about 30-40% effective, why should you even bother? H3N2 seems to be the most widespread flu strain right now. Vaccines don't work particularly well against it – as it tends to mutate more than other strains. Getting the flu shot isn't necessarily about eliminating the virus all together, it's about reducing your risk, and reducing the risk of other people around you. Think of it like this: "Seatbelts reduce your risk of death by about half. Most people would say that's good enough for me. I would think if you're at risk of serious influenza, if you're somebody who's got lung problems, you've got health problems, your immune system isn't strong, that any reduction should be a positive and should be something to consider."
3. It can reduce your symptoms. You might still get the flu, but it probably won't be as bad. According to Dr. Brahim Ardolic, chairman of emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, "There's no question that the people who got their flu shots this year got less sick than the people who didn't. The sickest people are still clearly the ones who did not get their flu shots." So if my family absolutely must be hit by this awful flu, the very least I can do to protect them is to give them a little boost. To make the symptoms a little bit less painful. To make the virus pass as quickly as possible.
4. One less virus might enter your house. There are many different flu strains circulating, so why bother getting the vaccine if it won't protect me against all of them? I don't know about you, but if I eliminate just ONE virus from entering my house, I've come out on top. Having a house full of small kids mean we are sick all of the time. Once one person gets it, we start dropping like flies. And the housebound days and sleepless nights seem to go on and on and on... It's worth it to me to vaccinate all of us, even if the flu shot isn't 100% effective. Even if we still get a virus, maybe we are saved from getting hit by ANOTHER virus just weeks later.
5. It won't give you the flu. Have you ever heard that getting the flu shot will make you get the flu? It's a myth! It’s not biologically possible to catch an illness from the inactivated vaccine. Also, there aren't any significant cons to getting the flu shot. Yeah, it might hurt for a few seconds – or even make your arm sore for a day or two (it did for me), but looking at the bigger picture, significant side effects are very rare.
So, do yourself a favor. Do your family a favor. Do your old neighbor a favor. Do that cute little kid with respiratory issues a favor. Do that sweet little baby a favor – and GET YOUR FLU SHOT NOW.
It could save lives.
**p.s. It's not too late for you to get the vaccine! Flu season could last well into March or April, so there’s still plenty of time for it to make a difference.