Can you hear the coughing in the streets? Does every sneeze from a random passerby frighten you just a little more than it does in the summertime? Well, it should, because flu season is sneaking up on us, my friends, and it's ready to pounce — which means it's time to consider the preventative measures available to you, including the flu shot. And, listen, if you're wondering how long the flu shot lasts, and whether or not you have to get the vaccine this year if you got it in 2017, well, I have some potentially disappointing news for you. The answer is, yes, you do need to get the shot again, regardless of how you prepared for the 2017-2018 flu season. Truck right on down to your doctor's office, and, as I often have to do, close your eyes until the whole needle thing is over.
As board-certified internal medicine physician Dr. Kevin Tolliver tells me, you have to get your flu shot every year because the vaccine only lasts long enough cover a single flu season, which is typically just a few months. Plus, Dr. Tolliver tells Elite Daily over email, the strain of the flu virus that creeps its way into our lives every year changes from one season to the next — it's just tricky like that, you know?
According to Dr. Tolliver, October is the best time to get yourself to the doctor for your flu shot. "This will allow time for immunity to develop before peak flu season," he tells Elite Daily. "It takes approximately two weeks to provide immunity."
Dr. Tolliver also points out that you can get the flu shot "almost anywhere" — not, you know, an Applebee's, but your local hospitals, outpatient clinics, retail clinics, urgent care centers, and pharmacies will all be able to administer the shot, he says. And for those without health insurance, Dr. Tolliver says the cost of the flu shot is usually pretty affordable, at about $20 — which is probably worth it if it means not being sick to your stomach and wrapped up like a human burrito in your bed for two weeks.
It's also important to get the flu shot every year because, as Dr. Tolliver tells me, influenza, and its related complications, can be very dangerous for your health. While the likelihood is pretty rare, he says, "healthy adults die from the flu each year." He tells Elite Daily, "Those [who are] very young, very old, or [who have] chronic illnesses are at even higher risk." To that point, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 80,000 flu-related deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season.
And because the elderly and young children are more at risk for flu-related complications, Dr. Robert Segal, a cardiologist and co-founder of LabFinder.com, says that many people have the misconception that flu shots are only for children and the elderly. The thing is, though, even if your symptoms are mild, Dr. Segal explains, you could still be carrying the virus and spread it to others for whom the symptoms will not be so mild.
"This is why flu shots are recommended for people of all ages, to prevent the flu in you, and prevent you from spreading it to others," he tells Elite Daily over email. Not only is it important to stop the spread, Dr. Segal also points out that "vaccinations are preventative measures to keep healthy people healthy."
Of course, some people have a bit of anxiety about the flu shot and worry that the vaccine itself actually causes the flu. If you've had that concern yourself, family physician Dr. Shilpi Agarwal tells Elite Daily in an email that there's no need for people to worry about this; the flu vaccine does not cause the flu, she explains. However, it can, on occasion, she says, cause a low-grade fever for 12 to 24 hours after getting the vaccine — but this is not the same as getting the actual flu, Dr. Agarwal explains.
And even if you do happen to get the flu after getting the vaccine — which is always possible, says Dr. Agarwal, as the flu vaccine doesn't always get the flu strain it guards against totally right — the shot is still very much worth your time. Dr. Agarwal explains that the illness will likely be much shorter in duration with the vaccine in your system, and the symptoms will almost definitely be less severe, too.
And trust me, when you're in bed, aching and nauseous and coughing all over the place, even a few days makes a whole lot of difference.