Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious illness, hospitalization or death. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza is to get vaccinated every flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. A 2022 study shows flu vaccination reduces children’s risk of severe, life-threatening influenza by 75 percent. A 2021 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients had a 26 percent lower risk of intensive care unit admission and a 31 percent lower risk of death from flu compared with those who were unvaccinated.
“Fall doesn’t just signal a change in seasons. It’s also a time of year that historically brings an increase in respiratory illnesses such as flu, COVID-19 and the respiratory syncytial virus known as RSV,” said Dr. Warren Hutchings, medical director for Atrium Health Navicent Primary Care West Macon. “Fortunately, we have vaccines to help limit the spread of these diseases and reduce the risk for severe infection, which in some cases can cause hospitalization and death.”
This season, all flu vaccines have been designed to protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common.
Since vaccination is the most effective tool to protect yourself from severe illness this fall and winter, doctors at Atrium Health Navicent recommend getting a flu shot as soon as possible. Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time. In addition to protecting yourself against the flu virus, getting a flu vaccine helps protect people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.
Key reasons to get the flu vaccine
Flu vaccination prevents illnesses, medical visits, hospitalizations and deaths.
Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease.
Vaccinating pregnant women helps protect them from flu illness and hospitalization, and has been shown to help protect babies from flu infection for several months after birth, before babies can be vaccinated.
Flu vaccination can be life-saving in children. A 2022 study showed that flu vaccination reduced children’s risk of severe life-threatening influenza by 75 percent.
While some people who get vaccinated still get sick, flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of the illness.
Common questions about the flu vaccine
Can a flu vaccine give you the flu? No. Vaccines given with a needle (like flu shots) are made with either inactivated viruses, or with only a single protein from the flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are weakened so that they will not cause illness.
Do I really need the flu vaccine every year? Yes. A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the best protection against the flu. Additionally, flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is reviewed each year and updated as needed.
Protecting yourself against the flu and COVID-19
Anyone who has ever had the flu knows it’s no fun. Fortunately, you can take several proactive steps to lessen the chances of contracting the flu, which also help protect you against COVID-19.
If you’re sick, stay home. If a fever persists longer than 24 hours, see your primary care provider. Your provider will know if you need to be tested for both flu and COVID-19.
Wear a mask and practice social distancing whenever respiratory virus levels in your community are high or if you have a high-risk medical condition.
Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Don’t touch your face or rub your eyes.
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Practice good etiquette by sneezing into your elbow, so that you're not spreading germs and exposing those around you.
Wipe down frequently used surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes.
Get vaccinated for both flu and COVID-19 in preparation for the upcoming season.
Help boost your immune system by incorporating these daily habits:
Eat a healthy diet.
Drink plenty of water.
Get a good night’s rest.
Exercise several times a week.
Destress whenever possible.
Get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19.