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Is the Flu Shot for You?

woman sneezing with flu

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Should You Get the Flu Shot?

Short answer: Yes.

Flu season can be unpredictable, and if your kids or coworkers are sneezing, it may be time to get the shot. The seasonal vaccine protects against the 3 to 4 predicted most common viruses and cuts your risk of getting the flu by 70 percent. We all know a naysayer or two, but the majority of people have nothing to lose by receiving the flu shot and for those at high-risk, the vaccine could be life saving.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over the age of six months get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available. Viruses begin to circulate around October and it takes up to two weeks to build immunity, so many places offer the shot as early as August.

Who is at Risk?

The flu shot is particularly important for individuals with a specific risk of infection. Conditions that may put you at high-risk for the flu include:

  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic lung or heart disease
  • Blood, endocrine, kidney, liver, neurologic or metabolic disorders
  • Weak immune system or HIV/AIDS
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity or BMI over 40
  • Long-term aspirin therapy

Those under the age of 5 and over the age of 65 are especially encouraged to get the flu shot, as well as all health care personnel and caregivers of at-risk patients.

Instead of a Shot

Some doctors advocate forgoing the flu shot in favor of building a strong immune system. Probiotics, balanced stress hormones and a diet full of fruits, veggies and vitamins can protect you from most viruses, not just those covered in the shot. This is a popular option if you’re concerned about thimerosal, a preservative in most flu shots that contains ethylmercury. When in doubt, talk to your primary care physician. An egg allergy may bar you from the regular flu shot, but substitute doses do exist. If you have a moderate to severe illness or a history of severe allergic reactions, the flu shot may not be right for you.

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