Flu shots: Get the facts

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It’s almost flu season! And that means, of course, that misinformation about the flu vaccinations are also back again. Don’t let lies and rumors keep you from taking measures to prevent yourself and your loved ones from getting sick this winter.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: No, a flu shot will not give you the flu.

That’s the most common misconception people have about the flu shot, but it’s hardly the only one. When you hear rumors about the flu shot, approach them with skepticism, and evaluate them in light of these facts.

 

You should get a flu shot every year.

“There are many different types of flu virus,” said Dr.  Aleah Gibson, a physician with St. Elizabeth Physicians. “The vaccine is different every year depending what types of flu are being seen in the population.  Last year’s shot will not protect you this year!”

 

Skipping a year won’t cause health problems.

Aside from the obvious vulnerability to the flu, of course.

 

The flu shot doesn’t contain active influenza virus.

“The flu shot works by introducing inactivated parts of the flu virus into the body,” Gibson explained.  “This makes the body react with an immune response that produces antibodies to the flu.  If you are later exposed to the flu virus your body will already have what it needs (antibodies) to fight the virus off so that you don’t get sick.”

 

There may be short-term side effects.

Your body will recognize foreign agents as a potential threat, and it may react defensively. A low-grade fever and body aches are possible, but they’re not the norm. “This just means that the shot is doing its job,” Gibson said. “You will not experience full-blown influenza from the shot.” There aren’t any documented cases of long-term side effects, so after that initial period, you should be good to go.

 

The flu shot isn’t for everyone. But it’s fine for most people.

“Some people may be allergic to parts of the shot and should avoid getting it,” Gibson said. “However, you should talk to your doctor about this.”

 

If you’re still on the fence about getting a flu shot, consider this: By getting your annual immunization, you won’t be protecting just yourself, but everyone around you. Getting the flu shot will prevent you from passing the disease along to others. And that could be critically important for the people you spend time around.

“Please remember that influenza can be deadly, especially to the young, old, and those with chronic health problems,” Gibson said. “While you may be healthy and able to weather the flu without lasting problems, those around you may not be so lucky.”