It’s that time of year. The time when the sound of a sneeze will have you running for the door.
Flu season is upon us.
And this year, it’s more important than ever for you to get your shot. As a college student, you’re surrounded by different people and bacteria day in and day out. From the dorm room to the cafeteria, being around a lot of people can put you at greater risk for exposure to the flu.
Additionally, if you get the flu, you’re putting everyone around you at risk. Especially those who might already have medical issues that pose a serious threat should they get sick.
What’s the big deal about the flu?
On top of being terribly sick and uncomfortable, the flu can impact your life in a lot of different ways. Here are just some of the ways that it could affect your life:
- You could end up in the hospital which is never a cheap trip
- Missing out on social activities and family gatherings
- Missing important classes and tests
- Not being able to complete assignments
- Having to call out sick to work
- In some cases, not being able to travel
As you can see, the flu is a much bigger deal than your typical common cold. It’s a heavy-duty illness that will have you stuck in bed until you can get it out of your system.
So, what does the flu shot do?
The flu shot changes every year depending on the strain that’s predicted. Basically, it encourages your immune system to create antibodies, which help to fight off diseases and infections.
You get the flu shot, and two weeks later, your body is fighting harder than ever to make sure you don’t get the flu.
Each year, between 5% and 20% of people end up with the flu. Given how it can affect every area of your life, taking that extra step to prevent it is important.
When you shouldn’t get the flu shot
There are some cases where getting the flu shot can hurt you, rather than help. If you have any concerns based on past health history or problems with the flu shot, talk to your doctor before making any decisions.
People with any of the following should definitely consult a doctor before getting a shot:
- Previous bad reactions
- Egg allergy
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
- Mercury allergy
- You’re already sick with a fever
Where to get the flu shot for FREE
Over the years, the cost of a flu shot has decreased. In most cases, you can get it for free if you do a little digging. And even better, most forms of insurance will cover the cost of the shot at an in-network pharmacy or with your general doctor.
Below, we list some places that typically offer the flu shot for free. Some of these options might still require insurance. Be sure to call ahead of time to find out if you are in-network and ask if they have any discounts for college students if you’re not able to find an in-network provider near you.
Many colleges now offer free flu vaccination clinics for students and faculty to encourage a healthy campus. Check your college website or ask the administrative office at your school if they have plans to offer the shot this year. They should be able to provide you with any necessary details you might need.
The administrative office may also have information regarding free clinics in the area, so they’re a great place to start if your college campus doesn’t offer the shot for free.
In an effort to prevent office-wide illness, many companies are implementing yearly flu shot clinics for employees. If you’re currently employed, check with your HR department to see if they’ll be offering the flu shot this year.
County Health Departments
Depending on your location, your county health department might be offering free flu shots for those over a certain age. Check your county website for any announcements.
Pharmacies like CVS, Target, Walmart, Rite Aid, and other major chains all offer the flu shot. If you have insurance, there’s a high likelihood that one of these pharmacies will be able to give you the shot for free. It’s worth calling the ones in your area to see how much it will cost you.
If you do have to pay for your flu shot, there are some ways to save money on the cost. GoodRx offers discounts at CVS, Target, Walmart, and more.
If you can’t find the flu shot for free, it’s still worth spending the money to get it, even if you’re the healthiest person you know. Getting the flu shot doesn’t only affect you, but it affects those around you who might be at risk of even more problems upon coming in contact with the flu.
If the cost is too high, talk to your school, insurance, or employer to see if they can do anything to assist you with the cost. You don’t want to miss out on class, social events, or family this year because you’re too sick to get out of bed.