Why we should take the flu vaccine

When it rains, it pours with seasonal influenza too. Sometimes all the members of a family are laid low by the flu virus. The symptoms of flu can be very irritating; some of them may be fever, chills, muscle ache, headache, stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, cough and sore throat.

Flu can cause a lot of discomfort, make you use up piles of tissues, put you out of action for at least a week and drain away your energy levels. Sometimes, flu can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Since the flu virus spreads through the air via the sneezes and coughs of an infected person, you can be exposed to it anywhere and everywhere…in a bus while commuting to work, in the gym or in the theatre. The virus can survive on surfaces like tables and keypads too. In fact, if you use a smart phone and are constantly holding it against your face, you are likely to get infected as the plastic surface can easily harbor flu germs.

Since it is so difficult to avoid coming in contact with the virus, it is essential to defend from it in another way. Vaccination with the flu shot is one of the best strategies to protect yourself and your family from a bad attack of flu.  However, unfortunately, studies have shown that only 20% to 40% of eligible adults and children receive the vaccine each year. 1

3 Reasons we should get the flu shot

It can prevent absenteeism
Imagine that you have a vital meeting to attend but have to miss it because of the flu. Thousands of workdays are lost to flu each year.

Flu keeps children home from school and make them miss out on study, play and fun for a few days to a few weeks. In fact, when children get influenza, it leads to missed working days for parents and other caregivers too.

It can prevent you from being a spreader

There are many who cannot get vaccinated, like babies under 6 months of age and immune-compromised people. However, they are way more susceptible to influenza than you are. Moreover, even if the symptoms of flu are mild in your case; they can be deadly for others like seniors, diabetics, heart patients and asthmatics. 2 If you are immunized, there are less chances of spreading the virus to your elderly parents or co-workers and friends who may have other conditions like diabetes, asthma and heart ailments. Thus the flu vaccine will not only protect you but protect others in the community too.

It may reduce flu related cardiovascular complications

Research has proven that heart patients who had got vaccinated with a flu shot had lowered risk of cardiovascular events and death.3 The reason behind this is that influenza causes inflammation throughout the body, which can cause the plaque in your arteries to dislodge and form a blood clot and lead to heart attack or stroke. Preventing influenza with a flu shot is beneficial to avert this risk.

The elderly population is especially vulnerable to the complications of flu. Vaccination of elderly persons has been associated with significant reductions in hospitalizations for pneumonia and influenza as well as  other heart and brain conditions. 4Another thing to be aware of is that hospitalization and death due to influenza are higher in diabetes patients, hence vaccination is very important in this population group. 5

Should children be given the flu vaccine?

Children are amongst the most susceptible populations for influenza. Flu may not only cause unnecessary suffering and absenteeism in this age group, it can also lead to severe complications like pneumonia and sepsis.

In fact, children aged <5 years have greater rates of hospitalization and complications than their older counterparts, particularly if the children have co-existing illnesses and also the danger of death.6

Moreover, children have a major role in the propagation of influenza in households and the community. This is because children spend a great deal of time in communities where daily contact with other people is extensive; for example, in schools, play groups, and daycare centres leading to rapid spread of the virus. Hence, vaccinating children can reduce the community infection rate.

All these factors are in the favour of getting children vaccinated every year because the virus changes from year to year and vaccination with one strain does not confer immunity to a different strain. 1 The added benefit is that the flu vaccine is shows high efficacy in children. 7

To summarize, everyone from your sweet baby (<six months) to your elderly parents can benefit from the flu vaccine.

References:

  1. Can Fam Physician. 2005 Nov 10; 51(11): 1458–1459.
  2. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Nov-Dec; 16(6): 886–893.
  3. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015 May 5;(5):CD005050
  4. Drugs Aging. 2005;22(6):495-515.\
  5. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Nov-Dec; 16(6): 886–893.
  6. Eur J Pediatr. 2014; 173(3): 265–276.
  7. Croat Med J.2013 Apr;54(2):135-45.

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