October is here, bringing with it changing leaves, Halloween candy, and the approach of the dreaded flu season. You may not worry about catching the flu, or consider it an inevitable winter annoyance. But before you pull out the scarves and mittens, consider these common myths about the flu vaccine, and find out the truth about protecting your family.
- Healthy adults don’t need to get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone age 6 months and older be immunized against the flu. The influenza virus can cause serious, prolonged illness, even in an otherwise healthy person. By getting immunized against the flu, you also protect the people around you and prevent the flu from spreading through your community.
- The flu shot can give you the flu. Let’s be perfectly clear: the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. So why does your cousin Larry swear that he had never gotten the flu until he got a flu shot? The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to be fully effective. If a person has already been exposed to the flu, or becomes exposed a few days after they get immunized, the flu shot may not protect him. The flu shot also does not protect against other infections, such as the common cold. Getting a flu shot doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but it provides excellent protection with minimal risk.
- Influenza isn’t a serious illness. Many of us perceive the flu as being a harmless nuisance, but every year it causes widespread hospitalizations and deaths. In 2013, flu-related deaths during the week ending January 12th reached epidemic levels, making up about 8.3% of all deaths in the U.S. Although children and the elderly face a heightened risk, everyone is susceptible to complications from the flu—during the 2013-2014 flu season, nearly 60% of flu-related hospitalizations were of people between the ages of 18-64.
- The flu shot isn’t very effective at preventing the flu. Immunization can reduce your chance of getting the flu by as much as 70%. Even if you do contract the flu, getting a flu shot may decrease the severity and duration of your illness, as well as the likelihood that you will pass it on to others. By getting a flu shot, you don’t just protect yourself—you protect your children, your parents and grandparents, your neighbors, and your coworkers.
- Vaccines are dangerous. Millions of people safely receive flu shots every year. Most either suffer no adverse effects or very minor effects such as mild soreness or swelling at the injection site. Although there are potential risks associated with any vaccine, serious reactions to the flu vaccine are extremely rare. The bottom line is that there is more risk associated with contracting the flu or passing it on to a loved one than there is with getting a flu shot.
Flu shots are available many places, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and community clinics. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist today about getting yourself and your family immunized, and enjoy a healthy winter season.