My desire for this column is to provide you with tips and tools to improve your health. Getting your flu vaccine, I believe, is a way to improve your health.

While I’m not a doctor, my day job (what pays my bills) is corporate wellness — this includes on-site health clinics. A large part of my role is to provide education on topics like this. While I can provide you with the why and where, the choice is still yours. My hope for you is that after reading this, you decide this important vaccine is a “yes” for you and your family.

The information I’m about to share with you largely comes from the Center for Disease Control, so while my desire is for you to get a flu shot, the stats I’m sharing are real and from a reliable and credentialed source.

WHY GET A FLU SHOT?

The flu is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications, hospitalization or even death. Anyone can get the flu, and getting vaccinated is the single best way to protect against influenza. Yes, you heard that right: the single best way.

Millions of people get the flu each year. Hundreds of thousands end up in the hospital, and, sadly, thousands even die each year from the flu. Many of my family members will tell you that, when I was pregnant a couple of years ago with my little girl, I was adamant that anyone — and I mean anyone — who planned on coming to my house or being around my daughter had to get their flu shot/pertussis (whopping cough) vaccination. Overprotective and a touch of hypochondria yes, but I still feel passionately about this cause.

DO I HAVE TO GET IT

EVERY YEAR? WHEN?

Yes, you do. The flu virus constantly changes, and vaccines are updated from one season to the next to protect against the most recent circulating strain.

When do you get a flu shot?

It seems like, with each passing year, I see advertisements for the flu shot being offered earlier and earlier. If you feel like you’re getting mixed messages as well, no need to panic. The CDC recommends that you get your flu shot by the end of October. If you miss this window, please don’t use this as an excuse to skip it all together.

There are still benefits of getting your shot, even into January. Flu season can last as late May. It does take about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that provide protection form the virus to develop in the body.

WHERE TO GO

I was shopping for a printer for our office today and the nice gentleman that was helping me (I am not tech savvy) asked me what I did. He told me he had a new nephew, and his sister had told him he needed to get his shots (whopping cough and flu). He was unsure of where he where he could go.

There are many options, even if you don’t have a primary care physician.

CVS and Walgreen’s, both with a local presence, offer you the option of just stopping in — with or without health insurance — to get a flu shot. Food City, Ingles and Publix — local locations with a pharmacy — offer the same service.

For those who visit local businesses, I checked with Corley’s Pharmacy, Atchley Drug Center, Town & Country Pharmacy and Central Drug Store & Gift Shop, and they offer the same service and convenience of just stopping in during business hours to get your flu shot.

Check with your workplace as they might be offering a “flu shot clinic” or a day for shots.

The local health department is a wonderful resource for vaccines. The Greene County Health Department is offering the flu shot, with or without insurance, with an appointment. Simply call 423-798-1749 to schedule.

DON’T FALL FOR

SOCIAL MEDIA MYTHS

“The flu shot gave me the flu.”

I can’t tell you how many people tell me, “I’ve heard the flu shot can cause autism, Parkinson’s disease, dementia,” or “I got the flu after having the flu shot,” or something akin to, “I have a cousin whose friend got one and now walks backwards.”

You get the picture.

While Facebook or your second cousin’s best friend’s brother might scare you with some random story of vaccines gone wrong, most any doctor or nurse is going to advise the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The medical director where I work, a long time and well-respected local physician, told me the other day when we were discussing this very topic that vaccines are why we live longer. I think I’ll listen to someone who spent the greater part of their life in school versus social media.

Some people should still consult a physician before vaccination. Children younger than 6 months should not get the vaccine. However, it is important for their caregiver to get vaccinated. For most pregnant women, an OB/GYN will require this vaccine while pregnant and under their care.

Those who have had Guillain-Barre syndrome,with a severe allergy to eggs, or who have had a severe reaction after receiving the vaccine in the past should also consult with a physician before receiving a shot.

To lighten the mood, I wanted to share a funny post I saw on social media the other day: “People say ‘Well, what did people do before vaccines/antibiotics/pasteurization?’ as if that’s an argument for going natural. ‘They died, Carol. A lot of people died.’”

Jessica Barnett is a Southwest Virginia girl married to a Greeneville native, a mom, personal trainer, certified fitness nutrition specialist, runner, herbivore and ice cream lover. Love Your Health is published every other Wednesday in Lifestyles Accent.

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