Flu season is upon us again, which means it’s time to think about protecting ourselves and loved ones from the flu. In the United States, 36,000 people die a year from the flu and more than 200,000 are hospitalized. Complications that result from the flu, like pneumonia often leads to these deaths and hospitalizations. Though anyone can have a life-threatening complication from the flu, more serious complications usually affect young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions, and anyone aged 65 and older.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination, but many people are hesitant to receive one due to myths that constantly circulate regarding the flu and flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for anyone six months of age and over, except for people with certain conditions. Here are some common myths about the flu and the flu shot:
- “Flu shots can cause the flu”- The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. It takes a couple of weeks for immunity to build, so if you get the flu in that time period, you have not had time for the shot to be effective yet.
- “Flu shots don’t work”- The flu shot will not protect you from every type of flu. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. That does not include EVERY flu virus that is circulating. The good news is research shows that if you do become infected, the severity of the illness is usually not as bad as it is for someone who is unvaccinated.
- “Flu shots are not safe”- Serious problems from the flu shot are very rare. If they do occur, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours of receiving the vaccination. The most common side effect is soreness at the injection site. Flu shots can occasionally cause side effects such as mild aches, fatigue, headache, or low fever. However, these symptoms are not near as bad or last nearly as long as symptoms from the flu do.
- “You don’t need a flu shot every year”- Flu viruses change or mutate every year. Vaccines are reviewed each year and updated as needed. Also, protection from flu vaccination declines over time.
- “I need to wait until later in flu season to get the shot”- The CDC recommends vaccination as soon as the vaccine becomes available, usually in August or September. They also recommend that you receive the flu shot before the end of October, but if you miss the window it can still be beneficial to get vaccinated later.
- “Pregnant women shouldn’t get vaccinated”- It is especially important to be vaccinated if you are pregnant. The flu shot prevents hospitalizations for pregnant women and can also help to protect the baby after birth.
Flu vaccinations are available at most providers’ offices, some pharmacies and at the health department. If you are unsure as to whether the vaccine is right for you, please make an appointment and discuss it with your primary care provider. We want all of Henry County to stay well this winter! If you have any additional questions, call the Henry County Medical Center FindLine at 731-644-3463.