With a vaccine for the flu readily available, why do so many people not take advantage of the opportunity to stop this terrible virus in its tracks? Positive Health Wellness Why not avoid feeling terrible, missing work, missing out on your weekend plans? Why risk the very real possibility of a visit to the hospital or worse? The reason many do not, and that you may not, is because of the exposure to something as harmful as the virus itself—myths surrounding the flu vaccine.
Myths about the flu shot or flu vaccine have been around since its creation. They prevent you from protecting yourself, your family, friends and co-workers. With the flu season upon us, there is no better time to put those myths in their place.
Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
The most common myth, and probably the most harmful, is that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. The flu vaccine DOES NOT and CANNOT give you the flu. The virus in the flu vaccine is dead: incapable of giving anyone the flu. Why do so many people believe it can? One reason is that past side effects of the shot, in addition to mild soreness at the shot location, are mild cold-like symptoms. Also, you must remember it’s the cold and flu season. Both are more prevalent at the same time of year. It’s not uncommon to catch a cold in the time just after you’ve been vaccinated. It’s very common for people to think they have the flu when it’s really just a cold, which leads to the next myth.
Myth: Seasonal flu is annoying, but essentially harmless—like a cold.
The flu is nothing but a bad cold: A common and dangerous myth because it prevents many from taking the flu seriously. It is not like a bad cold; it is much more dangerous. When you have a cold, you can generally still function close to normal throughout the day. The flu puts you down and out. In addition to feeling just plain terrible, there is a real threat of hospitalization and death. Depending upon the severity of the strain from year to year, the flu kills anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people in the United States each year. Hospitalizations from the flu number about 200,000 per year in the U.S.
Myth: The flu is only dangerous for the elderly. Young health adults do not need to get vaccinated.
Yes, the flu is most devastating to the elderly, but they are not the only ones who may face severe complications from the flu. Children are nearly as susceptible, in fact those under the age of 2 have nearly as high hospitalization rates as those over the age of 65. No matter your age, if you have a lowered immune system or do not take care of yourself while you have the flu, things can get very serious, very fast. Also, never forget that you can pass along your virus to someone who is not as well-equipped to handle it as you.
Myth: You can skip years between flu vaccinations.
Unfortunately, the flu vaccine is not as long lasting as other vaccinations you get in your life. Many are used to getting a vaccination for tetanus that lasts 10 years or the measles which lasts a lifetime. Because the flu strain that is dominant changes from season to season, a new flu vaccine must be created each year, which means you have to get a flu vaccine every year in order to be protected from the current strain. Last year’s vaccine will not protect you from the upcoming flu season.
Myth: If you haven’t gotten the seasonal flu vaccine by November, there’s no point getting vaccinated.
This myth originates mostly from the fact that in years past flu vaccine supplies would be gone by November. This is no longer the case, as you can generally find vaccines in December and early January. With flu season often times not hitting its peak until February, November or even December is not the time to give up on getting vaccinated. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wait until the end of the year. Early vaccination is best.
So Who Should Get Vaccinated Against the Flu
Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine as early in the season as possible. While it is important for everyone to get vaccinated, it is most important for those who work with or around children, in the healthcare industry or are at high risk for developing complications to the virus such as the elderly, young children and pregnant women.