I’m a young, healthy college student. Do I need to get vaccinated this flu season? That’s a great question. While it’s true that vaccination is recommended for people at risk of getting the flu, like the elderly and children, this population also includes college students who live in a densely populated community. Influenza is very contagious, and symptoms of the flu can pop up in places where people have close contact with others. Getting a flu shot is a matter of promoting positive preventive health behavior.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
A person’s immune system has natural defenses to help fight off respiratory diseases like influenza when they come in contact with the disease. Vaccines are therefore recommended for the elderly, the very young, pregnant woman, people ill with weakened immune systems and healthcare workers.
Sure, but this doesn’t describe healthy young adults. Nevertheless, because you are in a densely populated area—your school is surrounded by lots of other people sleeping, eating, playing sports and interacting with each other in close quarters and touching common surfaces like door knobs, desks and tables—it is advisable to get a flu shot.
“Influenza spreads like wildfire on college campuses because of high-density living conditions,” reports the US Fed News Service in the September 28, 2012 article, “Flu season has begun, but must college students ignore the vaccine.”
Flu shot Q&A
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website www.flu.gov offers information on where and when to get vaccinated against the flu.
Where can I get a shot?
- Many drug stores, including Walgreens and Rite Aid, offer flu shots, as do clinics, campus healthcare facilities and physicians offices. Check for hours of operation.
How much will it cost?
- The cost of a vaccine should be covered by your health insurance, a co-pay is about $10-$15, or out-of-pocket can be up to $30. Look for discount offers and coupons.
When should I get vaccinated?
- Get a vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your area. As occurrences of the virus peak in January and February, get your shot early in the fall.
How long will it last?
- A vaccination will last you one full season; you will need to get one each year.
What viruses does a vaccine cover?
- A vaccine typically contains protection against the three most common strains of the virus.
How are vaccines administered?
- Vaccines are available in injection or nasal spray versions.
Are vaccines safe?
- Vaccines are safe and effective but mild side effects may include soreness, headache, muscle pain, fainting and fever. If you get these symptoms and they do not pass after a few days, consult a healthcare professional.
What if I have an egg allergy?
- If you have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, consult your physician before getting a flu vaccine.
Flu preventive measures
In addition to getting a vaccination, you can take steps to prevent transmission of the virus. “Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact and something as simple as sneezing into your hand and then touching your phone, a doorknob or keyboard,” said Arizona ER physician Dr. John Shufeldt in the November 10, 2011 article, “The No-BS Guide to Boosting Your Immunity and Avoiding the Common Cold,” by Melanie Pinola for Lifehacker.com. “These germs can live for hours[…] only to be picked up by the next person who touches the same object. Washing your hands often or at the minimum using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will help knock out the majority of cold germs.”
To learn more about the flu, consult the campus medical facility, your physician or reputable online sources. The most trusted sources of information about influenza are “physicians, followed by the National Institutes of Health, pharmacists at local drug stores and nurses from county health departments,” according to “Young adults responded well to swine flu,” a January 25, 2012 article in Eurekalert.org. The least trusted sources were YouTube videos, drug company commercials and Wikipedia articles.”