Top Flu Myths

Top Flu Myths

Can a flu vaccine give you flu? Does it really work? Here are the top flu myths you need to know about.

Myth #1: The flu vaccine can give me the flu.

Fact: The injected flu vaccine contains an inactivated (killed) virus and can’t make you sick. The nasal spray vaccine contains live viruses that are attenuated (weakened) so that they will not cause illness. If you feel achy or slightly feverish, it is a normal reaction of the immune system to the vaccine, and generally lasts only a day or two.  

Those who believe they came down with the flu after getting vaccinated were most likely suffering from an unrelated upper-respiratory sickness or already were infected with flu when they received the shot. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to start preventing flu. 

Myth #2: I got the flu even though I had my shot, so the vaccine must not work.

Fact: Many people believe they have the flu but in fact are suffering from a different respiratory virus. It's also possible that you were exposed to influenza before the vaccine kicked in, or you came down with a strain of flu that wasn't included in that year's shot. 

Still, vaccinated people who do get sick with flu normally experience milder symptoms than those who skip the shot. It could save you from having to see a doctor, take a week off work or, even worse, be hospitalized. 

Myth #3: Influenza is not serious so I don’t need the vaccine.

Fact: Many people use the term "flu" to refer to a cold or other respiratory illness. However, influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and death. 

During the 2017-18 flu season, 80,000 people in the U.S. died of influenza and 900,000 people were hospitalized, according to preliminary estimates by the CDC. 

Myth #4: The flu vaccine can cause severe side effects.

Fact: The flu shot has one of the best safety records of any vaccine, and the majority of side effects are mild. The most common complaint after flu vaccination is soreness and tenderness at the injection site. 

Severe side effects are extremely rare. One in a million people may get Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), which cause muscle weakness and paralysis. 

Myth #5: I'm young and healthy, so I don't need to get the flu shot.

Fact: The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the flu. That's because influenza is a contagious disease and can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia, as well as missed work or even hospitalization for otherwise healthy people. 

The CDC estimates that flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths during 2018-2019. 

Healthy people also can spread the virus to others who are particularly susceptible, including newborn babies, senior citizens, and those with weakened immune systems. 

Myth #6: I am pregnant so I shouldn’t get the flu vaccine. 

Fact: Pregnant women should especially get the flu vaccine since some of the changes to the heart, lung, and immune system that occur during pregnancy make them more susceptible to severe illness from flu, including illness that requires hospitalization. The inactivated flu vaccine is safe at any stage of pregnancy.  

Getting the flu shot while​ pregnant even protects your baby from the flu for months after delivery. That's particularly important because infants younger than 6 months can't get flu shots of their own and are more likely to suffer serious complications from the flu. 

Myth #7: I got the flu vaccine last year, so I don't need it again this year.

Fact: To protect yourself and others from the flu, you must get the vaccine every year. That's because the vaccine formulation changes each year to protect against specific viruses circulating that season.

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