Summer has come and gone and that means another flu season is here. A contagious respiratory disease which can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death, flu can cause mild to severe illness and spreads through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.
“Even healthy people can get sick enough with the flu to be hospitalized. Receiving the flu vaccine is the best way to keep you and the people around you healthy,” says Paula Foster, RN, infection control/occupational health specialist at the VNA of Care New England. She adds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it’s available.
This year, there is one change – anyone who opted for the nasal-spray form of the vaccine in the past will have to get a flu shot after concerns arose last year about the effectiveness of the spray.
Even with the concern about hospitalization and death from the flu, there are still many myths circulating. Foster addresses most here:
MYTH: “The flu shot can cause the flu.”
FACT: The flu vaccine does not contain live virus so it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. Some side effects – mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, or low-grade fever – may occur but usually go away within one or two days. They do not result in the flu.
MYTH: “The flu shot does not work.”
FACT: Most of the time, the flu shot will prevent the flu. Studies show the effectiveness of the flu shot ranges from 70 to 90 percent when there is a good match between circulating viruses and those in the vaccine. Getting the vaccine is your best protection against the disease.
MYTH: “I never get the flu.”
FACT: Although some who get infected may not develop classic flu symptoms (fever, cough, muscle or body aches, sore throat, headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose), they can still transmit the virus to others at home.
MYTH: “I am too sick to get a flu shot.”
FACT: The flu vaccine is most important for the chronically ill or anyone with compromised immune systems because they face the greatest risk of complications if they get the flu. It can prevent serious illness and even death.
MYTH: “I am allergic to the flu shot.”
FACT: Severe allergic reactions can occur in response to various flu vaccine components but such reactions are rare. The vaccine is prepared in eggs but only those with a severe allergy to eggs must avoid getting the vaccine. There is an egg-free vaccine available for anyone with egg allergies.
MYTH: “Needles hurt so it’s easier not to get the vaccine.”
FACT: The very minor pain of a flu shot is nothing compared to the suffering the flu can cause.