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Benefits of an Annual Flu Shot

Every year in the United States and around the world, millions of people are infected by the flu virus. In the US alone, the CDC estimates as many as 11% of people are infected with the flu each year — that’s more than 30 million people. In some people, influenza causes uncomfortable symptoms like fever, chills, headaches, and muscle aches and pains. But in others, the effects are much more serious and sometimes even life-threatening.

The best way to reduce your risks of getting the flu (and prevent passing it on to loved ones and others) is to have an annual flu vaccine. At Healthy Life Family Medicine in Goodyear, Arizona, top-ranked primary care doctor John Monroe, MD, offers the most up-to-date flu vaccines for patients of all ages according to the most recent CDC recommendations. Here’s why you should schedule your flu shot today.

What is the flu?

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by infection with the influenza virus. It’s very contagious, which means it’s easily passed from one person to another. Flu symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:

Flu infection is especially dangerous for those at risk for flu complications, including older people, very young children, and those with chronic health conditions. However, it can cause severe and even life-threatening symptoms in anyone, of any age.

How does a flu shot work to prevent infection?

Like other vaccines, the flu shot uses influenza antigens, special molecules that cause your body to produce antibodies that are specifically designed to fight off flu infection. Every virus and bacteria contains unique antigens. Once your body produces antibodies to fight off flu antigens, your immune system is trained to recognize flu germs as soon as they enter the body. Then, it ramps up its production of flu antibodies so it can prevent infection.

Benefits of the flu vaccine

The most obvious benefit of having a flu vaccine is to prevent yourself from being infected with the flu. But a flu vaccine also helps keep the disease from spreading to other people. Once you have the flu virus, it can take a few days before symptoms begin. During that time, you can spread infection to others, including family members and people at high risk for complications and death.

Annual flu vaccines offer significant benefits to those at risk for flu complications. People with asthma, COPD, or heart disease, for example, are all more likely to become seriously ill, which could result in hospitalization or even death. If you’re pregnant, having a flu shot can provide protection for you and for your baby for several months after birth. 

Why do I need a shot every year?

While some vaccinations last for several years (and some for an entire lifetime), other shots need to be given on a regular basis to ensure your body produces the antibodies it needs to fight off certain diseases. When a recurrent vaccine is needed, it’s usually to help your body maintain a specific level of antibodies that fight against one kind of germ that has the same susceptibilities year in and year out. But with the flu, it’s a bit different.

The influenza virus is capable of fairly rapid change. Each year, these changes (or mutations) to the virus result in different strains of flu that can make us sick. And every year, scientists develop a new flu vaccine to combat the strains that are most prevalent during that flu season. We need a flu shot each year to keep up with those changes, so our bodies can produce the antibodies they need to fight off the current strains of flu.

Who needs an annual flu shot?

Short answer: You do. The CDC says everyone 6 months of age and older needs an annual flu shot, and young children might need two doses. Typically, immunity kicks in about two weeks after your vaccination, and even if you come in contact with a different strain of the flu, your vaccine may still provide some important protection.

At Healthy Life Family Medicine, we offer the most up-to-date flu shots,a s well as other vaccines you might need to stay healthy. If you’d like to learn more about this year’s flu shot, or if you’d like to schedule a vaccine to help keep the flu at bay, call our office at 623-232-9194 and schedule a visit today.

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