Yes, you should get your flu shot
If you’re dreading this year’s flu shot—we don’t blame you. No one wants to subject him or herself to a needle injection that doesn’t always seem mandatory. But while flu shots might not be required, they are strongly encouraged by the medical community—for good reason. The flu is a serious disease that can lead to pneumonia, hospitalizations, and death, says Margaret Khoury, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist and regional lead of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Flu Vaccination Program.
Each year, health experts around the world determine which flu strains are most likely to be the worst in the upcoming year. They use that information to target the flu shot to make it more effective—exactly how effective it depends on how good their predictions were, and some years are better than others. The flu shot is either “trivalent” or “quadrivalent,” which means it protects against the three or four strains of influenza and even if they only get one or two strains correct it’s still worthwhile to get the shot, she explains.
This is because it works: Getting a flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting the flu by 40 to 60 percent and can lessen the severity of the illness if you do end up getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
While the only real way to mess up your flu shot is to not get it at all, we asked top experts to reveal the biggest misconceptions and mistakes people make when it comes to getting a flu vaccine. Here are secrets the flu virus doesn’t want you to know.
You skip this year’s flu shot because you got one last year
Every year influenza viruses mutate—the virus isn’t the same as the one you were vaccinated for last year. “People need to get the flu shot every year because flu viruses are constantly changing and it is not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year,” says Caroline Sullivan, nurse practitioner, primary care provider, and assistant professor of nursing at Columbia University in New York. “Studies have shown that the body’s immunity to influenza either through natural infection or vaccination declines over time.” If you got the vaccine last year and still came down with the flu, it’s natural to wonder why you’d get the flu vaccine again, but experts say that in these scenarios, the virus has mutated so the vaccine hasn’t kept up, or the illness you might have had was not true influenza, but another virus altogether. Check out these 9 natural remedies to help you kick the flu.