Our practice recently got the first shipment of the flu shot, so I have been talking with families about the importance of yearly flu vaccination. Among those that have refused, the most common reason I've heard is:
"We're healthy. We don't need the flu shot."
It's certainly true that people with health problems such as asthma or lung disease or heart disease can get very sick with influenza and really need the flu shot. But healthy people need it too. Here's why:
Healthy people get sick with the flu all the time. The flu virus doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care if you have asthma or cancer or if you have never been sick a day in your life; it's happy to infect you either way.
Healthy people get complications of the flu all the time, too. They get the pneumonia and ear infections and dehydration and the other problems that land people in the hospital--or worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized for complications of the flu--and most of them are otherwise healthy kids.
But even if you might weather the flu without complications, there's another important reason to get vaccinated:
It's not just about you.
You don't live in a bubble. You live in a family and in a community. Your kids might go to school, you might go to work, you might at some point end up in grocery store or library or at a friend's house. And when you do, you just might encounter someone who could get really sick from the flu--like a newborn, or an elderly person, or a person fighting cancer or a toddler who can't be vaccinated because of an allergy. If you get sick, you could make them sick too--with possibly deadly consequences.
Ah, you say, but we will stay home if we get sick. That's great, especially as lots of people don't stay home when they should. But the problem with that plan is that you are infectious before you know you have the flu, before you realize that the little ache or sniffle or cough isn't just an allergy or overdoing it at the gym or a little cold--it's the flu. And in that little window of time, you could infect a bunch of people.
The more people who get vaccinated, the more flu we prevent--and the more lives we save. Don't take chances with your family's health--or the health of anyone else. Get your flu shot.
For more information on the flu and how to prevent it, check out the flu website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.