Every fall, advertisements appear reminding you to get your yearly flu shot. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone above the age of 6-months should get their vaccine by October. Despite the encouragement of healthcare providers to get the vaccination, a large part of the public is skeptical about the benefit of the vaccine, fearing side effects such as achiness or swelling at the site of the shot or the purported link between vaccines and autism.
So, you might be wondering, is it really worth it to get the flu shot every year? Let’s find out what the research has to say…
What is the Flu Virus?
The influenza virus causes a highly contagious respiratory illness that is caused by the one and only influenza virus. There are multiple strains of the virus, the most common being influenza type A and influenza type B. Symptoms typically present quickly and include sore throat, fever, cough, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. Although the symptoms of a cold and the flu are similar and are both viral respiratory tract infections, there are some important differences.
The high fever associated with the flu, which can last for days, is not typically seen with a common cold. Additionally, the full body aches and weakened muscles are side effects the flu causes which set the two types of viruses apart. Moreover, the cold might make you miserable, but the flu will stop you dead in your tracks. The cold is viewed more as a major inconvenience than anything, but the flu can be deadly for certain populations. The CDC estimated that the 2019-2020 influenza season caused 22,000 deaths.