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Why the Flu Shot Is the Safest, Most Effective Way to Protect Yourself and Your Family

Every year in the US, as many as 45 million cases of flu are reported, according to the CDC, and of those cases, as many as 61,000 people die. As many as 810,000 people need to be hospitalized for the flu, and that includes people of all ages. There’s no cure for the flu and no 100% surefire prevention for it either. There is, however, one way to substantially reduce your risk (and your family’s risk) of getting the flu: by having your flu shot every year.

At Medical Access, we offer flu shots at all three of our locations in Maryland and Virginia, helping patients of all ages improve their chances of staying healthy during flu season. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone from age six months all the way through the senior years. Here’s why you should get yours.

How a flu shot works

Your body fights off infections by producing antibodies, special proteins whose sole “job” is to fight off specific diseases. Different antibodies fight off different diseases, which is why we need vaccines for different diseases and illnesses, including measles, pneumonia, tetanus, and of course, influenza (flu). When you’re injected with the flu vaccine, your body goes to work producing antibodies to fight off that type (or strain) of flu. It typically takes about two weeks for the antibodies to form, so it’s important to get your flu shot as early in the season as possible.

Each year, there are multiple strains of flu, but typically one or two types predominate, causing the vast majority of infections. Since the predominating virus strain can vary from one year to the next, scientists use advanced technology to predict the strains that will be most active during the upcoming flu season. Then the vaccine is developed to protect against those strains. We need an annual vaccine because the strains can be different each year as well as to ensure our bodies have a good supply of the required antibodies.

Why everyone needs a flu shot

Of course, one of the best ways to avoid the flu is to avoid going into any area where there are other people. But it’s a safe bet no one is going to become a hermit for the duration of the flu season. Short of avoiding all human contact, having a flu shot is the best way to build up your body’s defenses against the predominant strain of the virus, which can substantially lower your risk of getting infected.

The flu itself can be quite dangerous. If you catch the flu, it also can make you more prone to other serious medical problems — like pneumonia, which can also be deadly. If you have a respiratory condition like asthma or COPD, your risk of flu-related pneumonia can be elevated, as it is in people with compromised immune systems, the eldery, and very young children.

The thing is, even though we know that some groups of people are at greater risk for flu and its complications, the fact is that anyone can get the flu, and anyone can suffer from its complications. Doing all you can to maintain your own personal health is a major reason for getting your annual flu shot.

Beyond that, there’s another important reason to get your shot: It can help prevent you from passing on a flu infection to someone else, including someone who could wind up very ill or even dying from their infection. Even if you personally aren’t ”worried” about catching the flu, getting vaccinated means you can play your part in helping your loved ones stay healthy, too. 

Schedule your flu shot today

With locations in Germantown, Maryland, and Woodbridge and Alexandria, Virginia, we make it easy to get your annual flu shot. Call ahead, and make an appointment, use our online form to schedule your visit, or walk in and get your vaccination when it’s most convenient for you. Make your health — and the health of your loved ones — a priority this year.

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