Why getting a flu vaccine is a shot in the arm for good health

If getting a flu shot seems scary, consider the alternative: lying in bed, weak from fever, aches, pains and chills, and barely tolerating your throbbing headache, cough and nagging sore throat. Even worse, you could end up with a complication from the flu, such as pneumonia or a heart infection - either of which could land you in the hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot. If you're a Providence Health Plan member, a flu shot costs you nothing. The fleeting pain of a needle prick is less perilous than battling the flu, which can be fatal - especially for infants, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with chronic health conditions.

You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. After your shot, your body takes roughly two weeks to build immunity. So if you were exposed to the flu prior to getting your shot, you might still get sick. Also, your body may produce a mild immune response to the vaccine that includes a low-grade fever and minor muscle aches - not to be confused with the flu.
Here are some tips to keep flu germs from spreading:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. If possible, use a tissue to "catch" your sneeze, and then dispose of that tissue. Using a tissue multiple times may be environmentally conscious, but it's not sanitary or helpful to those in your immediate vicinity. And what of handkerchiefs? Save those for your suit pocket - on a healthy day.
  • If you don't have a tissue handy, use your "cough pocket" - or the crook of your arm. If this concept is new to you, it's probably new to your kids, too. Don't tell them just to "cover their mouth" when they cough or sneeze - show them how.
  • Wash your hands often. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer to clean your hands.
  • The more you touch your eyes, nose and mouth, the more you spread germs, so keep your hands away from your face.
  • If you have the flu, the CDC advises you to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has broken, unless you need medical attention.
  • Stay away from other people as much as possible while you are still symptomatic. It sounds harsh, but your family, friends and colleagues will thank you.

We know that a flu shot isn't something you look forward to - but flu viruses evolve quickly from year to year, so new vaccines are developed in response to new strains. The shot you had last year is likely no longer effective against this year's viruses. Additionally, the antibodies your body produces as a way to protect against the flu start to decline six months after receiving the vaccine.