Flu Shot Myths Debunked: Fact Versus Fiction
Writer/ Donna Bopp, infection preventionist at IU Health North Hospital
Since 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there have been between 12,000 and 61,000 annual deaths from influenza. As fall begins to bring cooler weather, it also signifies the start of flu season, which can last as late as May. Flu shot misconceptions not only put your own health at risk, but also those around you.
Myth 1: The flu is just a bad cold.
While influenza may cause symptoms similar to a cold, such as a sore throat, cough and runny nose, it is much more serious than the common cold. While individuals with a weakened immune system are more likely to get the flu, that doesn’t mean that healthy people can’t get influenza. While most people will recover within a few weeks, some can develop complications including sinus and ear infections, pneumonia and heart or brain inflammations.
Myth 2: Flu shots don’t work.
During flu season, there are several flu viruses circulating, which is why people may still get the flu despite being vaccinated since the vaccine is specific to only certain strains. However, being vaccinated improves your chances of being protected from the flu and helps protect those with vulnerable immune systems.
Myth 3: Flu shots can cause the flu.
The vaccine contains an inactivated virus that cannot give you influenza. Feeling achy or slightly feverish is a normal reaction of the immune system to the vaccine, and typically only lasts for a couple of days.
Myth 4: Pregnant women shouldn’t get the flu shot.
Pregnancy results in changes to the immune system. If a pregnant woman were to catch the flu, complications such as preterm labor and premature birth may occur. Hospitalization and the risk of flu related death is also more likely.
Myth 5: You don’t need a flu shot every year.
According to the CDC, our immune protection from the flu vaccination declines over time, making an annual vaccine necessary for optimal protection. As flu viruses are constantly changing, so is the vaccine. For the best protection, it’s important to have an updated flu vaccine.
Talk with your doctor about scheduling your flu shot appointment.