In all of my life I never got a flu shot, even when I was pregnant with my first while heading into a weary New England winter. But then, my daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at just six-days-old. And flu shots are now an annual part of our lives.

What I’ve learned since making the switch to becoming a flu vaccinating family and subjecting all three kids, myself, and my husband to that shot, is that it’s necessary because the flu kills.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the flu is a much more serious virus than we tend to think it is. It can lead to hospitalization and death, and even the healthiest among us can contract the flu and the spread it to the most vulnerable.

  • Each year more than 200,000 are hospitalized from the flu.
  • Up to 49,000 people have died in a single year from a severe case of the flu.
  • Even healthy children can die from the flu. Richard Kanowitz became an advocate for flu vaccines after his four-year-old daughter Amanda died of the seasonal flu in her sleep one night.
  • Last year alone, 145 children died from the flu. Most of them were otherwise healthy. Most of them were unvaccinated.
  • The flu shot makes you 70% less likely to contract the flu.
  • Flu season runs from September to May and the shot takes up to two weeks to become effective.

Getting the flu shot for my daughter makes perfect sense. She is less likely to get the flu because of that vaccine. But since there’s still that 30% chance she will get the flu, the rest of us, including our extended family, get the shot, too. Now we’re less likely to get the flu and give it to her. The flu shot doesn’t just protect you, it protects the people around you – strangers and loved ones alike.

What it comes down to is this: the flu affects each of us differently. Doctors don’t know why some of us are hit more severely by certain strains and others rarely get sick at all. Even if you’ve always been able to get through the flu just fine, your children might not be as lucky.

The single best way to protect your family from this virus whose severity can’t always be predicted is to get the flu shot. In addition, you should practice good hand hygiene and teach your children to do the same. Keep your sick children home from school so they can rest, and so they don’t pass their germs on to other people. Lives depend on it.