3 reasons to get a flu shot

Dr. Robert Bowers

Flu season has begun. Protect yourself, your family, your co-workers, and anyone else you come into contact with by getting a flu shot.

The vaccine is recommended for everyone ages six months and older. It can take up to two weeks for your body to build immunity to the flu after getting the shot, so the earlier you get a vaccine during flu season, the lower your chances of getting sick. WVU Medicine physician Robert Bowers, MD, provides beneficial information about the flu for your protection.

1. The flu shot protects you from the most widespread flu strains.
Flu vaccines usually offer protection against three or four flu viruses and reduce your risk of contracting the flu by at least 40 to 60 percent. The flu virus is constantly changing, and there are many different forms of the flu, so the vaccine is not able to offer complete protection from all flu viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) work with vaccine manufacturers to determine which flu strains may be the most prevalent each year, and they make the specific vaccine to fight these predicted strains. While there is a chance you could get the flu even if you get a flu shot, at least you will not be at risk for all forms of the flu.

2. You don't get sick from a flu shot.
The flu vaccine may not always prevent infection from every strain of the flu, but contrary to the popular myth, the flu shot does not make you sick. A flu shot contains no live flu virus or no virus at all. A vaccine allows the body to maintain immunity when it comes into contact with the virus. Some people may experience minor side effects from a flu shot, such as body aches, a low-grade fever, or muscle soreness at the site of the vaccine, but this is not the flu. Any minor side effects from the vaccine are more tolerable than the flu itself.

3. Your vaccination helps protect people who are high risk for flu complications.
Young children, adults aged 65 years and older, and pregnant women are among those at a higher risk of hospitalization and possible death from the flu virus. By taking the time to get vaccinated – and having your family members vaccinated – you'll help reduce the spread of illness among those who may face greater difficulty recovering from the flu.

Flu symptoms
You may be able to spread the flu the day before you start to have symptoms, so getting a flu vaccine is critical. Symptoms of the flu often occur more abruptly than with a cold. Symptoms may include:

  • Body aches and chills
  • Severe fever
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

Help prevent the flu

  • Wash your hands properly, including between your fingers and under your nails, for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer frequently if washing your hands is not available to you.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth where germs can enter into the body.
  • Clean off phones, computers, doorknobs, and other surfaces using alcohol rubs or disinfecting wipes.
  • If you get the flu, you can be contagious for almost a week after. Stay home for 24 hours after you no longer have a fever.

Need a flu shot?
Call 855-WVU-CARE to make an appointment with your primary care provider or visit any WVU Urgent Care location (no appointment necessary) for a flu shot.

WVU Urgent Care locations and hours:

  • Suncrest – Morgantown
    Seven days a week: 7:45 am – 8 pm
  • Evansdale – Morgantown
    Monday – Friday: 7:45 am – 8 pm
    Saturday: 9:45 am – 4 pm
  • WVU Medicine Outpatient Center – Fairmont
    Seven days a week: 7:45 am – 8 pm
  • McHenry, MD
    Monday – Friday: 9 am – 7 pm
    Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm
    Sunday: Noon – 5 pm

Know before you go: WVU Medicine walk-in clinic and pharmacy holiday schedules

For questions or to make an appointment, call 855-WVU-CARE / Visit WVUMedicine.org for more about services.