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Flu Shots: Fact and Fiction

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Cold and flu season is well underway and being sick over the holidays just plain sucks. I missed Christmas Eve last year because I had food poisoning. There’s nothing you can do to vaccinate yourself against that, but many of us do try and vaccinate ourselves against the flu. Many of us don’t get a shot because of what we’ve read or heard, but here are some myths about the flu shot dispelled. 

Myth: You Can Get Sick from the Flu Shot

I didn’t get the shot for a long time because that’s exactly what I thought. “I’m not going to get a shot because I don’t want to get sick.” Well, turns out, it depends on what kind of flu shot you get. Dr. Dennis Cunningham, an infectious disease specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio says the shot with the actual needle doesn’t contain a live virus so you can’t get the flu that way. The needle version just says, “OK, body! Here’s what you need to kill.” I have gotten the flu shot before and thought that I was getting sick, but the side effects from the flu shot can mimic flu symptoms like body aches, but according to the Centers for Disease Control website says that’s just your body working overtime to build up immunity. The nasal spray version does contain the live virus, so you’re more likely to get the flu if you get the one they shoot up your nose.


Myth: You’re Immediately Protected

After I got my shot I thought, “Great! Now I don’t have to wash my hands and take Vitamin C!” But, according to the CDC, it actually takes up to two weeks for your body to fully build up immunity to fight off the flu. There are several different strains of the influenza virus and then there are a bunch of different substrains after that. Gross.


Myth: You Don’t Need a Flu Shot Every Year

Did you know that the flu virus can become immune to the vaccine and mutate? There’s actually Influenza A, B, and C and the flu vaccine needs to be changed every year to whatever experts think will be the “dominant strain” that season. The CDC says that “a flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing.”


Myth: The Flu is Harmless

This is completely false. The CDC says “Seasonal flu is a serious disease that causes illness, hospitalizations, and deaths every year in the United States.” While it does feel almost exactly like a nasty cold, flu symptoms include high fever, headache, body ache, dry coughing and severe congestion. Colds last maybe just a few days or a week, while the flu sticks with you; sometimes for weeks. Dr. Christine Hay from the University of Rochester Medical Center says, “When you have the flu; you know it. You feel like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck.”


Myth: Only Old People Need the Flu Shot

In 2010, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend that all people ages six months and older get a flu shot. The ACIP says there are some groups that it’s more important for like senior citizens because they are at an increased risk for death if they come down with the flu. Others are also at an increased risk and are more encouraged to get the flu shot like healthcare workers, pregnant women, diabetics and now I learned I need to get a flu shot every year because I was diagnosed with asthma. People who also live in the same house or who have close contact with those in the “higher risk” groups should also get a flu shot. There are also other steps you can take to protect yourself from getting the flu. Good hand washing habits, covering your cough and if someone around you gets the flu, antiviral drugs are another line of defense.


The CDC website says that the flu shot is perfectly safe for most of us, but there are some that should not be vaccinated and that includes people who are allergic to chicken, eggs and egg products, people who are already sick and babies under the age of six months. There is plenty of flu shot to go around and it’s also not too late to get your flu shot. Find a place by clicking HERE.

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