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Mythbusters: The Flu Edition

We’ve all been there – sniffles, chills, aches and pains. The first step to preventing the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year, protecting yourself and others. While getting the flu vaccine may seem like a straightforward decision, there are so many myths and misconceptions around both the flu and vaccine. Don’t let bad information put you in harm’s way this flu season – learn the difference between myth and fact and go get vaccinated!


Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.

Fact: Flu vaccines cannot give you the flu! Flu vaccines given with a needle are currently made in two ways: (1) the vaccine is made with flu viruses that have been inactivated, or killed, and are therefore not infectious, or (2) the vaccine uses only a single gene from a flu virus to produce an immune response, without infection.


Myth: You don’t need to get vaccinated every year.

Fact: Immunity declines over time. Doctors recommend that you get vaccinated every year for maximum potential protection, especially since the vaccine is updated each year to protect against new strains of the flu!


Myth: Getting vaccinated guarantees that you will not get sick.

Fact: It takes up to two weeks after vaccination to build up immunity to the flu. You may still get sick during these two weeks. You may also still get the flu if you catch a strain of the virus not in the vaccine you received. This is why even if you get the vaccine, you should still take additional precautionary steps to prevent the spread of germs, especially at the height of flu season, i.e. wash your hands frequently, do not share drinks, etc.


Myth: December is too late to get vaccinated since it’s already peak flu season.

Fact: Getting the flu shot is valuable as long as the influenza virus is in circulation. If you are not vaccinated let’s say by Thanksgiving, don’t fret! The vaccine can still be protective later in the flu season. Always keep this rule of thumb in mind, though: the earlier you get vaccinated, the better. The CDC recommends that you get the flu shot by end of October.


Myth: Pregnant women or people with pre-existing medical conditions need special permission and/or written consent from a doctor to get vaccinated.

Fact: There is no recommendation for pregnant women or those with pre-existing medical conditions to seek out special permission or written consent from a doctor for vaccination. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women and those with chronic or pre-existing medical conditions.


Myth: The flu is not dangerous, it’s just a bad cold.

Fact: Thousands of people die from the flu every year. Those with pre-existing health conditions are especially at risk of dangerous complications from the flu.


Myth: Antibiotics can fight the flu.

Fact: There is no point in bugging your doctor for antibiotics when you get the flu since antibiotics do not work on viruses. There are certain antiviral medications that might help, like Tamiflu. If taken within 48 hours of the first sign of flu symptoms, Tamiflu has been known to cut the full course of the illness by one to two days. Other meds that offer some relief include over-the-counter fever and congestion fighters, i.e. ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Prevention by vaccination is your best bet, though!