Is a Flu Shot Right for You?

Questions to Consider

If you can't decide whether or not you should get a flu shot, answer these questions to help guide your decision about getting the flu vaccine, shot, or nasal spray.

Also, know the reasons you should not get a flu shot. If you have any indications that you would be put at risk by the flu vaccine, then you do not need to go any further with these questions. If you need more information, ask your doctor.

Are You in a High-Risk Group?

Pregnant woman being examined by doctor
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"High-risk" means a group of people who are more likely to die from influenza than another group. High risk for seasonal flu typically refers to older people or those with compromised immune systems. The CDC describes high-risk groups for seasonal flu more in-depth as:

  • Children and infants
  • Pregnant women
  • Seniors
  • People with health conditions: if you have a chronic health condition including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, liver disease, renal disease, or you are immunosuppressed due to cancer treatment or HIV, you are at higher risk.
  • Travelers and people living abroad

If you are in a high-risk group, then you should seriously consider getting a flu shot.

Are You in Close Contact With Someone Who Is in a High-Risk Group?

While many people get flu vaccine to protect themselves from getting the flu, there is another, just as important reason to be vaccinated. That is, to protect those around us who might be vulnerable to flu.

If you live or work with a cancer patient, it is important for you not expose them to the flu, as it could lead to serious illness or death. Any step you can take to prevent catching the flu and exposing them is the right thing to do. Even if you think the flu shot won't protect you 100 percent, any decrease in the risk you pose to others is valuable.

Children who go to school or daycare can easily pick up germs from other children and may then spend time with an elderly, at-risk grandparent. While the child may not even appear to suffer any symptoms, he may carry those germs to his grandmother who could subsequently die from contracting the flu from her grandchild. Public health professionals call this herd immunity, meaning those of us who are healthy owe it to others in our herd to keep them protected.

Are You Pregnant?

Some studies show that when a pregnant mother gets a flu shot, then she is protecting her unborn baby, too. Pregnant women are also considered in the high-risk group for H1N1 swine flu.

Do You Spend Time Near People Who May Be Contagious?

Do you shop in a supermarket, stop by the post office or even visit a doctor's office? Do you work in an office with other people who could become sick, or does your child go to school or daycare? These are all environments where you can easily be exposed to others who carry flu germs.

Do you work in an environment where you might expose other people? For example, if you work in food service or health care, you can infect others before you even become sick yourself. If you know you may be exposed to the flu, or if you know you may expose others, then you'll want to seriously consider getting a seasonal flu shot.

Have You Already Had the Flu?

Even if you have already had the flu, you may need flu shots. Here is how to tell:

  • Remember that different flus come about from different strains of the flu virus. Flu viruses are varied, and with each variation, your body needs a different immunity to fight it. Flu shots provide that immunity, but you'll need a different shot for each variation.
  • If you had the seasonal flu prior to this current flu season then you may still catch the more current flu because seasonal flu strains change from year to year. A  flu season typically runs from fall through winter, into the following early summer.

Do You Travel Using Public Transportation?

Whether you go to work on a bus or train, or travel to other countries on business or for pleasure, or take a cruise, you will be exposed to many people who may be carriers of the flu. Being exposed to others who may be sick increases your chances of catching the flu.

Can You Afford the Time Off to Take Care of Yourself or a Loved One?

Even if you won't be at risk of losing your own life from the flu, you may be at risk of losing income. That goes for getting sick yourself or having to stay home with a sick child or anyone else who might be under your care. You may want to weigh the short amount of time it takes to get your flu shot against the many days or weeks of time you may have to take off from work or school if you don't.

A Word From Verywell

If you answered YES to one or more of these questions, then you should seriously consider getting your flu shot. Authorities tell us that fear of the flu vaccine is simply not warranted. Yes, you could suffer some side effects or you might even get cranky for a day. But those side effects are so easily tolerated when compared to the possible severe consequences of the flu. Also, access to the flu vaccine, whether injectable or flu mist, is easy and may even be free. 

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