Don't Forget Your Flu Shot!
As winter approaches, mentions of flu season sweep the playground. What will this flu season bring? Are enough kids at school getting their flu shot? Is immunization against the flu different from other vaccines? Can you support vaccines but opt out of the flu shot?
The short answer: The best way to prevent the flu is for everyone in your family to get vaccinated. The flu shot not only helps to protect your health, but also benefits your community by protecting children and adults who could get very sick if they catch the flu.
The flu vs. the common cold
It’s important to make a distinction: The flu is not a “bad cold.” The flu is caused by a different virus. In general, while some of the symptoms of a cold and the flu may overlap, colds are milder than the flu. Colds don’t typically result in serious complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. These complications are more likely to occur with the flu.
While healthy adults who get the flu may experience mild symptoms that don’t lead to complications, the risks are more serious for higher-risk populations like children, the elderly, and people with chronic health problems like asthma.
What about building up your own immunity?
There's a common misconception that skipping the flu shot somehow helps build up your immunity — or even helps your body “fight off” the flu better.
On the contrary, choosing not to get vaccinated doesn’t help your body fight the flu. Rather, you’re reducing your protection against illness — and leaving higher-risk populations more vulnerable.
The effectiveness of the flu shot
Each year, the flu vaccine reduces your risk of contracting the flu by 40 to 60 percent. In fact, children ages 6 months to 17 years who were vaccinated against the flu last winter reduced their risk of contracting influenza H1N1 by more than 62 percent and their risk for illness from all influenza types by 61 percent.
Furthermore, the flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still end up getting sick.
Plus, mothers who receive the flu vaccine during pregnancy help provide protection to their baby for up to six months after birth, after which he or she is old enough to receive their own flu vaccination.
Where to get your flu shot
The flu vaccine for 2019-2020 is available now! In Oregon, you can get a flu shot at neighborhood pharmacies like Walgreens, Fred Meyer, and many urgent care walk-in clinics. Check out Vaccine Finder for your area.
You can also ask your pediatrician about the flu shots provided at their office or clinic.