“I don’t want a flu shot because it can make me get the flu.”
“Flu shots are only for kids or the elderly.”
“There’s no proof flu shots actually work.”
You’ve heard it before. Maybe you’ve said these things yourself (we speak from experience, here). Whether you are anti-flu vaccine or the first person in line to get one for the upcoming season—there are some strong opinions out there about the effectiveness of flu shots. But should you be worrying? When it comes to flu shots…the truth is out there!
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The flu vaccines contain flu viruses that have been “inactivated” and are no longer infectious, or the vaccination contains no virus at all. The flu shot can, however, cause side effects such as soreness, redness and tenderness around the injection site. You may also experience a low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches. Some people do experience mild reactions that last a couple of days.
So…should I get a flu shot?
Absolutely. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot “for just about everyone 6 months and older,” even if the vaccination has not changed in the past year. Why? Because over time, your vaccination’s effectiveness declines. To keep yourself optimally protected from the nasty flu bug, getting a shot every year is your best bet. If you’re lucky, you might get a sticker or a free healthy snack after!
Flu shots aren’t just for the young, elderly or at-risk. They’re recommended for everyone, particularly if you work in a healthcare environment or in a school. In fact, sometimes your employer may require it. A 2017 study showed that flu vaccines significantly lowered a child’s risk of dying from influenza. Pregnant women are also encouraged to get vaccinated—the antibodies can pass on to their babies after they’re born, protecting them against the flu virus as well. Isn’t science amazing?
Another misconception about the flu vaccine is that you can only get one at the beginning of flu season (as early as October). While it is helpful to get vaccinated as early as possible, flu season can last until May! You can still arm yourself with protection against the flu as late as December—though the vaccine takes a couple of weeks to reach its full effectiveness. Peak flu time is December through February. Now’s the time to get vaccinated!
You can still get influenza after getting a flu shot, but your chances are significantly lower. You may also suffer from another respiratory virus such as rhinovirus (the common cold)—your flu shot can’t help you with that one. There is also the chance that you catch a strain of the virus that does not “match” the vaccine you received. But at the end of the day, empowering yourself with as much protection as possible from the flu is a no-brainer.
Lastly, there’s a rumor that flu shots hurt. We can’t confirm or deny this. But we can confirm that you are never too old for a “brave present,” such as a lollipop or animal sticker. So what are you waiting for? Go get that flu shot!
Author: LivingWell PDX Blog
Adventist Health is committed to creating a healthier Portland community.