It’s the season for family, feasting, and holiday fun. But this time of year is also known for its bouts with the chills, body aches, and coughing. That’s right, it’s the beginning of flu season. And with that comes its share of myths and misinformation about the flu and vaccine.
The best way to prevent illness, hospitalizations, and death from the flu is to get a flu shot or nasal spray, but many myths still abound about the vaccine.
Check out these six myths about the flu vaccine and why they’re wrong:
I already got the shot, so I’m covered
Unlike some of the vaccines you got as a baby, the flu shot does not provide lifetime protection. That doesn’t mean the flu shot doesn’t work, however. The flu vaccine changes each year to provide the best match to the kinds of viruses that are expected to circulate that season.
The flu shot will give me the flu
This is one of the most common myths about the flu vaccine, but there’s no truth to it. You won’t get the flu from the flu shot, but you can have some mild side effects. Your arm will probably be a little sore from the shot itself, and it is possible to have a low fever, muscle aches or a headache for a couple of days. You can get the flu even if you got the vaccine, but the flu shot isn’t to blame. You may have come in contact with the virus before you got the shot or during the two weeks it takes for the vaccine to be effective. You can also get a different strain than what is covered or even get one of the strains you were vaccinated against, but the vaccine should make symptoms milder.
It’s too early/late to get a flu shot
If your doctor or pharmacist has a flu vaccine available, that’s a good sign that you can go ahead and get vaccinated. On the early end of the season, you should get your shot as soon as possible because it could take up to two weeks to be effective. The flu season begins at different times each year, and you don’t want to guess wrong and get sick before you get vaccinated. The same reasoning applies to the end of the season. You may think you’re too late to get the vaccine, but as long as there are still shots available, you should get one. Several strains of the flu virus circulate each year. Even if you’ve gotten sick, the vaccine can protect you from getting sick again.
I can’t get a flu shot
You have a cold, you’re pregnant, or you’re allergic to eggs, so you shouldn’t get a flu vaccine, right? Wrong, sort of. There are some reasons to avoid a flu shot, but your doctor is the best person who can tell you whether the vaccine is safe for you.
If you are allergic to eggs or another ingredient in the vaccine, ask your doctor if there is a vaccine without those ingredients. The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and can provide some protection for their unborn child. If you’re sick with a mild illness, you can probably still get the vaccine as long as you don’t have a fever. The bottom line is this: Talk to your doctor about any concerns with the flu vaccine and protect yourself from the flu if you can safely be vaccinated.
“Not everybody can get a flu shot, like very young babies and people who have had a serious reaction in the past,” says Spencer Eaton, executive director at Pinnacle Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “When people who are able to get vaccinated get a flu shot, it helps protect everyone through herd immunity.”
I’m healthy, so I don’t need to worry about the flu
It’s true that vulnerable groups — like children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses — need to be especially vigilant against the flu, but that doesn’t mean that healthy people get a pass.
The flu can be deadly, and even when it isn’t, people can become seriously ill.
What’s more, people can spread the flu without even getting sick. Get a flu shot to avoid a lengthy stay on the couch and to avoid getting other people sick.
A flu shot is all I need to prevent the flu
The flu vaccine gives you the best protection against the flu each year, but it isn’t the only protection. You should still practice good hygiene by washing your hands well and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you are sick, stay home and don’t pass the illness around.
The flu is no joke, and getting vaccinated each year is vital to help stop its spread. If you hate being sick and lying on the couch for a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor and get vaccinated before the flu visits your house.