According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with diabetes are more likely to develop complications from the flu, even if their diabetes is well managed. This is because diabetes makes it harder for the body to fight an infection. Sick days can also throw your blood sugar off balance–Who wants to eat when they’re feeling tired and nauseous?–which means fighting the flu also makes it harder for you to control your diabetes symptoms. One of the ways you can help prevent the flu from striking you this winter is to get vaccinated with a flu shot. So, what is a flu shot, anyway? The seasonal flu vaccine is a shot that helps your body develop the antibodies it needs to fight the flu virus before it affects you. Traditional flu shots are called trivalent vaccines. They prevent three of the most common types of the flu. For those in need of extra coverage, there are vaccines available that can protect a person from up to four different kinds of flu virus. Who should get a flu shot? The CDC recommends everyone older than 6 months of age gets a flu shot every year. However, the Mayo Clinic puts special emphasis on individuals who are more likely to develop complications from the flu. This includes pregnant women, older adults, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions, including asthma, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. When should I get mine? Flu season typically peaks in January or February, but it’s possible to get the disease at any time. Some years, flu season will range from early October all the way until late May. For this reason, if you choose to get vaccinated, it’s important to do so early. Because the vaccine can take up to two weeks to fully take effect, the CDC recommends getting your flu shot in early October. Why do I have to get a shot every year? If you’ve had a flu shot before, you know it isn’t like the chicken pox or tetanus vaccine. To keep up immunity, you have to get a flu shot multiple times. There are several reasons for this. First, there are many different kinds of flu viruses, and they can mutate, or change, from season to season. This means the flu shot that protected you last season may not cover you from this year’s strain. In addition, studies have shown your body’s ability to fight a flu infection decreases over time. To keep your body’s antibodies in top flu-fighting condition, the CDC recommends getting a flu shot every year. This is also why it is especially recommended that older adults get vaccinated. It’s important to remember that while the CDC recommends a flu vaccination for almost everyone, there are some people who shouldn’t get the vaccine. If you are interested in getting a flu shot this season, talk to your doctor about whether or not the vaccine would benefit you. Photo courtesy of Robert S. Donovan on Flickr