Have you ever asked the question that most kids ask when it’s time to go to the doctor? “Do I have to get shots?” An answer of “no” can bring great relief, while a “yes” will likely cause groans and maybe a little dread.

Kids are not alone in feeling this way, though. Most adults don’t like to get shots either.

They can hurt a little bit, and there’s just something about knowing when the doctor or nurse is about to poke you with that needle.

It’s important to understand, though, that shots are a good thing. If you’re sick, a shot of the right medicine can help you feel better in a hurry.

Other shots called "vaccinations" help keep you from getting sick. Some of the worst diseases from the past, such as measles and mumps, can now be avoided thanks to vaccinations.

Shots may hurt just a little bit, but that pain goes away quickly… and it’s much better than getting a serious illness!

Vaccinations work because they contain tiny pieces of the germs that cause a certain disease. These tiny pieces are either dead or extremely weak versions of the germs.

When injected into your body, they cause your immune system to react and build up antibodies to fight the intruding germ.

antibodies are special cells that help protect your body from diseases. As your body creates more antibodies in response to a germ, you then become immune to that disease.

If you encounter live germs in the future, the antibodies will help your body fight the disease. Most of the time, you won’t get the disease at all, or if you do, it will be only a mild case.

But why do you have to get shots? Couldn’t the doctor just give you the same medicine in an easy-to-swallow pill? Unfortunately, some medicines must be injected rather than swallowed.

Medicines that are swallowed are broken down in the stomach by powerful stomach acids and digestive juices. This is fine for some medicines.

Other medicines, such as vaccinations, need to be injected so that they enter the bloodstream quickly without being affected by stomach acids.

If you’re in school, you’ve probably had most of the shots you need already. You may still need to get at least one shot each year, though.

Especially as winter approaches, it’s often a good idea to get a flu shot to lessen the chance that you’ll catch a bad case of the flu.

 

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