Around September of every year, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and even grocery stores start announcing the availability of flu shots. If you’ve ever gotten one, you probably know that they are very much in demand. Some years, supply shortages have made it difficult to get them.

But not everyone gets the flu shot. Some simply don’t like getting shots, and some believe that the flu vaccine is dangerous. But many raise the question of whether or not the flu vaccine is really effective. Here are some of the pros and cons of getting a flu shot:

Pros

* Getting the flu shot can keep you from getting the flu if it contains the right strain of the flu virus. Adults who have normal immune systems have a good chance of avoiding the flu altogether by taking the vaccine.

* If you get a flu shot and still get the flu, it will usually be less severe than it would have been if you didn’t. There is also a reduced risk of developing potentially life-threatening complications.

* You don’t necessarily have to get a shot any more. The flu vaccine is now available in a nasal spray called FluMist. It has been approved for use in individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 who do not have asthma or recurrent wheezing.

Cons

* The flu vaccine does not always contain the right strain of the flu. Sometimes a strain that was totally unexpected comes out of the woodwork after the flu shots have already been manufactured and administered, leaving the door wide open for those who received them to get sick anyway.

* Some argue that the very idea of vaccination is flawed. They claim that putting a virus directly into the bloodstream can damage the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to both the flu and other types of infections.

* The flu vaccine poses some risks. In rare cases, it has been known to cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves around the brain and spinal cord. It may also cause an allergic reaction in some individuals, especially those who are allergic to eggs. Less serious side effects include soreness at the injection site and respiratory symptoms similar to those of the flu.

Getting a flu shot is not the only way you can lower your risk of getting the flu. If you prefer not to be vaccinated, keeping your immune system in top form and practicing good hygiene can help keep you from contracting the flu. In fact, these measures are advised even for those who do get the flu shot.

Some people swear by the flu shot, while others avoid it at all costs. Some of both groups get the flu, and some do not. For those who want a flu shot, new laws have helped to ensure that shortages are rare. And for those who do not, it’s good to know that they are not mandatory.

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