What you need to know about the flu vaccine
If you’re dreading this year’s flu shot—we don’t blame you. No one wants to subject him or herself to a sometimes-painful needle injection that doesn’t always seem mandatory. But while flu shots might not be required, they are strongly encouraged by the medical community—for good reason. The flu is a serious disease that can lead to pneumonia, hospitalizations, and death—especially if you’re over age 65. “During the 2014-2015 flu season, adults 65 years and older accounted for 61 percent of flu-related hospitalizations and 79 percent of influenza and pneumonia-related deaths,” says Kathleen Cameron, MPH, senior director, Center for Healthy Aging, National Council on Aging (NCOA). While the only real way to mess up your flu shot is to not get it at all, we asked top experts to reveal the biggest misconceptions and mistakes people make when it comes to getting a flu vaccine. Here are secrets the flu virus doesn’t want you to know.
You skip this year’s flu shot because you got one last year
Every year influenza viruses mutate—the virus isn’t the same as the one you were vaccinated for last year. “People need to get the flu shot every year because flu viruses are constantly changing and it is not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year,” says Caroline Sullivan, nurse practitioner, primary care provider, and assistant professor of nursing at Columbia University in New York City. “Studies have shown that the body’s immunity to influenza either through natural infection or vaccination declines over time.” If you got the vaccine last year and still came down with the flu, it’s natural to wonder why you’d get the flu vaccine again, but experts say that in these scenarios, the virus has mutated so the vaccine hasn’t kept up, or the illness you might have had was not true influenza, but another virus altogether. Check out these 9 natural remedies to help you kick the flu.