6 Myths About the Flu Shot

Flu season has officially started. Have you gotten your flu shot yet? If you’re hesitating, don’t.

There are just as many myths, half-truths and questions about the flu vaccine swirling around as there are people infected with the virus. Protect yourself from influenza by getting vaccinated and understanding why it’s important.

Here, we reveal the truth behind some of the most common misconceptions about the flu shot.

Myth #1: The flu shot makes you sick.

This is probably the most common and widely spread myth about the flu shot out there, so if this is your concern, you’re in good company. However, the flu shot definitely does not make you sick. It’s made from inactivated flu viruses, which are present in the vaccine, but are not infectious. The vaccine causes antibodies that protect against the influenza virus to develop about two weeks after the vaccination.

Myth #2: It’s not effective.

Figuring out the exact three or four strains to vaccinate against does involve some guesswork and the scientists don’t always get it right. So it is possible to get the flu shot and still get the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that the flu shot for the 2015-2016 season was about 47 percent effective. That said, the shot is still your best defense against the flu and, if you do get it, chances are it will be more mild case and last for a shorter amount of time than if you didn’t get the shot.

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Myth #3: The flu shot is only for kids and elderly people.

It is especially important for children and other groups of people with weaker immune systems, including the elderly and pregnant women, to get the flu shot. Studies have shown that children who had the flu shot were 74 percent less likely to be hospitalized for the flu. People 50 years old and older reduced their risk of hospitalization from the flu by 57 percent when they got the flu shot. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get a flu shot.

Myth #4: If you don’t like needles you can get the flu nasal spray.

Unfortunately the CDC found that the FluMist, which was available in past seasons, is not effective at preventing the flu and has recommended against getting it this year. But don’t worry even if you’re afraid of needles most people find that the flu shot is quick and relatively painless.

Myth #5: If you’re allergic to eggs you can’t get the flu shot.

While that was true in the past, the current CDC recommendations are that you can get the flu shot, with one caveat. If you get light-headed or have breathing problems after eating eggs, you should get the shot at your doctor’s office or a medical clinic. If you get hives and don’t have other symptoms, it’s OK to get the flu shot in any setting, including your office if your employer offers it or at a drugstore. In some cases, an egg-less flu shot is available.

Myth #6: It’s too late to get the flu shot.

It takes two weeks for the effectiveness of the flu shot to kick in and the flu season has lasted all the way through May in the past. One more reason to get your shot today!

If you’re in the Southern California area and are in search of a primary care physician, call (800)USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment to schedule an appointment.

By Anne Fritz