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Top flu shot beliefs that are myths

Last updated on January 27, 2018

Chances are you’ve suffered from the flu at some point and are eager to avoid a re-occurrence.

While steering clear of those who look suspiciously flu-infected can be one method, getting an annual flu shot is another.

However, fewer people are opting for the vaccination for a whole host of reasons, some of which hold no merit whatsoever.

You can get the flu from getting a flu shot

According to the American Psychological Association, fear of actually getting the flu from a flu shot is one the most common reasons people use to avoid doing it. Dr. Choi of Harvard Health explains that the flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus or flu proteins, which means it cannot transmit an infection. He says, “The injectable intramuscular flu vaccine is not a live vaccine, so it cannot, in any way, transmit the flu virus.”

Once you get the shot it takes between seven and 14 days for the vaccine to take affect. Many who get sick, do so during this period from one of the many circulating viruses and in turn, assume it was the shot that made them sick.

Once flu season starts, it’s too late to get a vaccine

While it’s better to get your flu shot before the season kicks in to high gear — due to the fact the vaccine can take up to two weeks to offer protection — it’s never too late to get the vaccine. Vaccine expert Dr. Gregory Poland, MD of Mary Lowell Leary, professor of medicine and director of the Vaccine Research Group at Mayo Clinic notes that even if you get the flu without being vaccinated, getting the vaccine can protect you from other strains that are going around.

The flu is a just a cold, it’s not a big deal

The flu is influenza, which may start out like ‘bad cold’ symptoms, however, each year nearly 40,000 Americans die from flu complications, while an additional 250,000 are hospitalized. Regardless of your physical condition or your age, everyone should be concerned, including healthy people who may easily fight off the virus, but infect susceptible people around them.

You can only get the flu from sick people

Between 20 and 30 percent of Americans carrying the influenza virus show no symptoms whatsoever. You don’t have to feel ill to pass the virus. The virus cannot be contracted from other things such as drafty windows, cold weather or wet hair. Because the flu season occurs during the colder months, people associate it with cold weather, but there is no relation. The only way to contract the flu is to become exposed to the influenza virus via another person.

Other Flu Myths

  • Flu vaccinations do not work in older adults. Mayo Clinic says this is not true. As we age the immune system wanes and loses some of its protective abilities, making older people more susceptible. Reports show that 85 percent of pneumonia and flu deaths in 2010 were of people aged 65 and older.
  • Chicken soup helps to speed recovery.While hot soup on a sick day may make you feel better, it does not possess any special flu-fighting qualities.
  • Antibiotics can help speed recovery.Antibiotics only work against bacteria. The flu is a viral infection rendering antibiotics ineffective. In the event you develop a bacterial infection as a flu complication, your doctor may then prescribe antibiotics.
  • It’s better to feed a cold, starve a fever.Harvard Medical warns this is not an effective flu-fighting strategy, but instead, is a good way to make your flu worse. When you’re sick your body needs more fluids and the same amount of food you usually consume. Eating less can mean poor nutrition, which can prolong your flu.
  • All vaccines contain mercury. While the levels used in thimerosal are considered safe by the CDC, thimerosal-free flu shots do exist and patients can request them.

While doctors admit that flu vaccines are not perfect, they are the best protection people have to defend themselves, their families and people they’ll come in contact with. Additional steps you can take to avoid contracting the flu this season:

  • Wash your hands often
  • If you’ve been around someone with the flu, consider taking anti-viral medications
  • Do your best to avoid coming into contact with flu-infected people
  • Since the influenza virus changes every year it is important to update your shots to ensure you have immunity to the new strains.



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