Every year, flu season finds a whopping 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population bedridden and clearing our sinuses over a bowl of steaming chicken noodle soup. With peak flu season upon us, we’re all wondering whether it’s time to visit our doctors or local pharmacy for the preventive vaccine. At the same time, a huge chunk of us also question whether the painful shot is influenza’s best defense.
Simply put: it is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receiving your annual flu shot will equip you with optimal protection against the illness. Except, this winter may pose a challenge: experts predict that this year “could end up being a pretty bad flu season,” making that vaccine all the more a priority. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of facts you should know before getting pricked. And to further brace your flu-fighting antibodies, stock up on these 30 Immune-Boosting Foods to Get You Through Cold & Flu Season.
You Aren’t 100% Protected
The CDC estimates that last year’s flu shot was only 42 percent effective, meaning folks were still able to contract the virus even after getting vaccinated. According to a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, last winter’s vaccine had developed a mutation that hindered its effectiveness—a threat that remains to this year’s vaccine.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
More than one influenza virus exists, and the flu shot doesn’t equally protect against them all. While the 2016-2017 season’s vaccine boasted an overall effectiveness of 42 percent, the shot was only 34 percent effective against the H3N2 strain, which was most prevalent that winter. “If H3N2 viruses dominate the U.S. flu season again this year, vaccine effectiveness will likely be moderate to low again,” Scott Hensley, author of the study and an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania explained. “The other components of the vaccine, like H1N1 and influenza B, will likely provide excellent protection. The vaccine will also likely prevent severe disease and death caused by H3N2 viruses.”
The Vaccine Can’t Give You The Flu
Contrary to popular belief, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. While you may experience flu-like symptoms following the vaccine (like coughing, slight fever, and body aches), rest assured that it’s not influenza. If you’re still concerned, check in with your doctor.
You Need One Every Year
Since the influenza virus mutates every year, scientists work to invent a new vaccine annually. So the vaccine you received last year might not protect against the flu viruses circulating this year. The CDC also states, “A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the ‘optimal’ or best protection against the flu.”
You Can Be Contagious Without Showing Symptoms
About 20 to 30 percent who are infected with influenza don’t show symptoms in the first couple days of catching the flu, yet can still pass it on to others around them. Prevent illness ahead of time by stealing these 35 Ways Doctors Never Get Sick.