It’s that time of the year again: flu shot time. If you’re like most people, getting a shot is about as exciting as getting a root canal. But before you skip getting vaccinated, read these common myths that can make you sick:
Myth: I still have time – flu season hasn't started yet.
Fact: The timing of flu season is unpredictable. While it tends to peak from December to February, the flu season actually runs from October through May, and it’s hard to say when the virus will start making its rounds. Not only that, but it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in. If you wait, you could end up getting it too late in the season to help. (And what’s worse than getting a shot and then getting sick because you procrastinated?)
Myth: I can't get a flu shot because I have a cold already.
Fact: Only your doctor can tell you if you aren’t eligible for the flu shot. As long as you don't have a fever above 101 or any other significant illness, it's okay to get the flu shot before your cold clears up.
Myth: I'll probably catch the flu anyway.
Fact: The flu vaccine cuts your risk of getting the flu by 50-70 percent (not to mention, even if you do get the flu, it reduces your flu symptoms substantially). Look at it this way, you may also still be injured in a car crash even if you wear a seat belt. Does that mean you should ditch wearing a seat belt?
Myth: I got the flu shot before and it ended up giving me the flu.
Fact: Flu shots are made with inactivated flu virus, which cannot give you the actual flu. The most common reaction is soreness or redness at the site of the actual infection. A very small percentage of people will get a low-grade fever and aches as their body builds up an immune response, but this will only last one to two days and is not the same as getting the flu.
Similarly, if you have ever gotten the nasal spray, which is a very weakened flu virus, you may have gotten a stuffy nose or cold-like symptoms as your body builds up an immune response.
Myth: If I get the flu, I'll just take antibiotics.
Fact: Antibiotics don't treat viral infections like the flu. If someone develops a serious complication of the flu, such as pneumonia, then they need antibiotics. But the antibiotics won't help the flu at all and may actually cause other unwanted side effects.
Myth: I'm pregnant, so I can’t get the flu shot.
Fact: The flu vaccine protects you and your baby. The flu is, in fact, more likely to cause severe illness and complications if you’re expecting. It can also cause premature labor and other health issues for your baby. And here’s good news: the flu shot you get now will protect your baby after his or her birth. Just make sure to get the standard flu injection, not the nasal spray.
Myth: The flu isn’t a big deal.
Fact: Thousands die from flu-related issues every year. Certain groups of people are even more vulnerable and can develop deadly complications from the flu – specifically:
- Children under 2
- Adults over 65
- Women who are pregnant
- People with heart, kidney or liver disease, asthma, COPD, diabetes and all other chronic medical conditions
- People who are morbidly obese
Myth: I have to make a doctor's appointment to get a flu shot and I don't have time.
Fact: There are many convenient options to get your flu shot now. You may be able to get it at the grocery store or at your child’s pediatrician’s office when you get your child a flu shot. Other options include pharmacies, local health clinics and your workplace.
Myth: I hate shots.
Fact: If you hate shots that's not a myth, it's a fact. The good news is that the vaccine comes in a couple of forms for those who fear needles, including nasal spray and intradermal shots (injected in the skin with a smaller needle). The bad news is that the CDC is not recommending the nasal spray for the 2016-2017 flu season, because it has been shown to be ineffective protection against the flu.
Remember, too, that if you come down with the flu you can infect children or less healthy (and more vulnerable) people around you. So get your flu shot.