The influenza vaccine—or flu shot—is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against seasonal flu and its potentially severe complications. So important, that the CDC recommends that all children and adults should get a flu vaccine, starting at six months of age.

How does the flu shot work?

The flu shot works by exposing your body to a small amount of dead or weakened virus cells so that your immune system will create antibodies to the flu. Then, when and if you’re exposed to the active flu virus, the antibodies will protect you. Since the virus cells in the vaccine itself are dead, they cannot give you the flu. However, it can take around two weeks after you receive the flu vaccine for your body to develop the needed antibodies.

Protecting yourself from the flu

To stay healthy throughout flu season,  it’s important that you get the flu shot each year. Some reasons you should get the flu shot include:

1. To keep from getting sick with the flu:

A big reason you should get the flu shot is to protect yourself from getting sick with the flu. The flu is highly contagious, and the flu vaccine helps protect you, even if you’re exposed to others who may have the flu. And while getting the flu may not seem like a big deal, it often causes severe symptoms in adults and can be much more dangerous for children and the elderly.

2. To avoid the serious symptoms and lost productivity that comes with the flu:

You may be able to function with a cold, but when the flu hits it can have you down for the count. Symptoms of the flu can include high fever, headache and intense body aches. And, while you may experience some minor side effects after getting a flu shot, such as soreness at the site of injection, that is a walk in the park compared to having the flu. In addition, some studies have shown that those who get vaccinated and still get the flu have greatly reduced symptoms.

3. protect your loved ones from getting sick:

When you get your flu shot, you’re helping to protect your friends and loved ones against the flu as well. This is especially true if they are unable to get the flu shot themselves, such as those with a severe, life-threatening allergy to the flu vaccine and infants less than six months of age. According to the CDC, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. You can do your part to help reduce those numbers by getting the flu vaccine.  

4. Because the flu vaccine is so easy to get:

Getting the flu vaccine is fast and convenient. You can get the flu vaccine at your doctor’s office or one of the many other places where it is offered, including walk-in health clinics, pharmacies and the health department. In many cases, your employer or school will also offer the flu shot.

5. Because last year’s vaccine won’t protect you from this year’s flu:

Even if you had a flu vaccine last year, you still need to get one again this year. That’s because every year the vaccine is specially formulated to work on the most prevalent flu viruses at the time. In addition, your body’s immune response from the flu vaccine declines over time, so an annual vaccine offers you the best protection.

Don’t wait until flu season is in full swing. Talk to your doctor and schedule your flu shot today, or find out where the flu shot is being offered near you.