The flu is far more dangerous than a bad cold. It's a disease of the lungs, and it can lead to pneumonia. Each year, about 114,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized and about 20,000 die because of the flu. Most who die are over 65 years old, but small children less than two years old are as likely as those over 65 to have to go to the hospital because of the flu.
Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. It also keeps you from bringing the virus home or to work to work and infecting others. Here are some common misconceptions about flu shots:
"The shot can give you the flu."
Flu vaccines are made from killed influenza viruses. They cannot give you the flu.
"The vaccine isn't 100% effective, so I'm better off getting the flu."
No vaccine is 100% effective. However, if you get a flu shot but still get the flu, you are likely to be far less sick than you would have been without the protection.
"The side effects are worse than the flu."
The worst side effect you're likely to get is a sore arm. The risk of sever allergic reaction is less than one in four million.
"Only the very old and the very sick need the flu shot."
Both adults and children who are in good health need a flu shot to stay healthy. Even if you aren't at high risk of complications, you should get a flu shot to prevent the flu and to protect everyone you live with and contact.
Four Tips to Avoid the Flu
- Get vaccinated. October and November are the best months to get vaccinated, but December is not too late in most years.
- Avoid close contact. Stay home from work or school when you are sick. Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose. Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Wash your hands. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.