Should I get a flu shot? Cold and flu season has just begun, so it’s not too late to get your flu shot to avoid a serious illness this year. Many people do not think ahead about getting the flu shot until they hear of people who come down with the flu.
If you get your shot early, you’ll have a high degree of confidence that you won’t be one of them.
What is the flu?
The flu is not just a “bad cold.” There are many forms of the influenza virus, but all produce more serious symptoms than those of the common cold.
A cold usually starts with a sore throat, followed by upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. It comes on gradually and you may feel like you’re “coming down with something.” Cold symptoms make you feel under the weather, but rarely include aches and pains (besides a headache) and usually, there is no fever at all. Mild symptoms tend to be mostly gone within a week.
Influenza (flu), however, comes on suddenly, usually with little or no warning. You ache all over, have a splitting headache, high fever, upper respiratory symptoms, and exhaustion. You may also experience GI issues, such as diarrhea or vomiting. The flu is nasty.
What makes the flu particularly dangerous is the possibility of complications and secondary infections. In the 2018-2019 flu season, there were an estimated 29,000,000 symptomatic cases of flu, with 380,000 hospitalizations and 28,000 deaths due to influenza (per CDC).
The most common complications include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, ear infections, and sinusitis. Other complications may include muscle inflammation, central nervous system issues, inflammation of the heart or the sac around the heart, and exacerbation of existing health conditions.
Who is most at risk of complications?
Those who are most at risk of complications from the flu are people 65 years or older, those in nursing homes, and both adults and children with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, and those with compromised immune systems. In past flu seasons, 9 out of 10 adults hospitalized for flu had at least one underlying medical condition.
It’s never too late to get your flu vaccine, but the earlier you get it, the more confident you will be that you’ll make it through this season without catching the flu. Celebrate 2022’s National Influenza Vaccination Week by getting your flu shot and stay healthy this winter!