Although getting a flu shot isn’t the most entertaining thing you can do, it’s one of the smartest. Plus, it’s often free, quick, and painless. Need a little more convincing before you get poked? Consider these four reasons why it’s important to get a flu shot.

1. The Flu Changes Every Year, Requiring Annual Protection

You got a flu shot last year, so why do you need one again this year and every year after? The flu virus consists of RNA, which contains genetic information just like our DNA. This RNA can mutate, producing new strains of flu. The flu shot you got last year helped your immune system recognize and fight the RNA sequence of that year’s flu virus. Because this year’s flu virus might have a slightly different RNA sequence, your immune system might not recognize it and fail to react aggressively enough to prevent infection. You need to get a flu shot every year to keep your immune system prepared to fight the latest virus strain.

2. You’ll Be Less Vulnerable to Secondary Infections

By getting a flu shot, you not only protect yourself against the flu but also from potentially life-threatening complications. When you have the flu, your immune system directs virtually all of its energy toward fighting that virus. If you’re exposed to additional viruses — like COVID-19 — or bacteria while you’ve got the flu, your normal defenses can’t block those pathogens from invading your body too. Instead of fighting just the flu (which is a hard battle in itself), you could get secondary bacterial infections like pneumonia, sinusitis, even dangerous inflammation of your organs, including the brain.

3. Your Flu Shot Protects Other People Too

Some people should not get a flu shot due to their age or health status. They rely on everyone around them — including you — to protect them through “herd immunity“. Herd immunity works like this: When you get a flu vaccine, your immune system neutralizes any flu pathogens you’re exposed to. Instead of multiplying and spreading to other non-vaccinated people, the flu virus meets a “dead end” in your body thanks to the vaccination. When enough people in a community get vaccinated, the chances of a non-vaccinated person being exposed to the flu plummet, and their health is protected.

4. A Flu Shot Could Save You Money

Recovering from the flu is nothing like recovering from a cold. You won’t be able to “power through it” and go to work — nor should you try! The flu leaves you feeling miserable for five to seven days. Unless you have a generous number of sick days, you could lose money by not being able to work. And that’s just the best-case scenario of recovering at home. If you’re hospitalized for trouble breathing, dehydration, or secondary infections, you could rack up significant medical bills, depending on your insurance. In contrast, you can often get a flu shot for free and avoid the financial repercussions of this virus.

Get the Flu Shot Every Year

Ready to get your flu shot? Go get it as soon as possible. It takes two weeks for your body to react to the shot and build up the protective antibodies. Don’t wait until you feel sick or know you’ve been exposed — the vaccine won’t help you at that point. Read more about why it’s important to get a flu shot during COVID-19 here.