It’s unpleasant to be laid up with influenza. Having the flu feels far worse than having a cold. The body aches and high fever make it difficult to get out of bed and do much of anything, and it can mean up to 2 weeks of lost productivity as your immune system fights off the virus and you slowly recover. Even then, some people continue to feel tired for weeks afterwards.
Fortunately, there is a vaccine that protects against the most common forms of seasonal flu, but some people are reluctant to take it. Those who choose not to often don’t understand the vaccine and worry they’ll experience unpleasant side effects. It’s time to put to rest some of the misconceptions about the flu vaccine. Here are the most common ones:
Flu Vaccine Myth: The flu vaccine will give you the flu
The influenza vaccine won’t give you the flu because the viruses in the vaccine have been inactivated by heat, which means they’re unable to cause infection. There is a nasal spray form of the flu vaccine that contains live viruses, but these viruses have lost their ability to cause active flu. The nasal spray vaccine is only appropriate for people between the ages of 2 and 49.
The reason people believe the vaccine can give them the flu is because a small number experience a low-grade fever and muscles aches after getting a flu shot. These symptoms usually last for 1 to 2 days. This is due to the immune system’s response to the vaccination. It isn’t a case of flu.
Flu Vaccine Myth: The flu vaccine is risky
What’s more risky than the flu vaccine is getting the flu. More than 23,000 people die from the flu each year. In contrast, the flu vaccine rarely causes serious complications. The biggest risk is having an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. This can occur in people who are allergic to eggs or some other component in the vaccine. If you’re allergic to eggs, talk to your doctor before taking the flu vaccine.
Some people have tried to link vaccines with health problems such as autism. This has been blamed on an ingredient called thimerosal in vaccines. Even though most recent studies show no connection between the seasonal flu vaccine and autism, there are thimerosal-free flu vaccines available.
Flu Vaccine Myth: If you’ve had the flu recently, you don’t need it
The seasonal flu vaccine covers both type A and type B influenza. You may have immunity to one type of influenza, but that doesn’t protect you from the other. If you had type B, you could still end up with type A if you don’t get the vaccine. Make sure you’re protected against both.
Flu Vaccine Myth: The influenza vaccine begins to protect you right away
You’re still at risk for influenza for up to 2 weeks after you get a seasonal flu vaccine. This is because it takes that much time for your body to develop flu-protective antibodies. That’s why doctors recommend getting vaccinated prior to the beginning of flu season
Flu Myth: You don’t need a vaccine every year
If you don’t get a yearly flu vaccine, you’re still at risk. The viruses that cause influenza change from year to year, which means the vaccine you got last year may not cover this year’s strains. Plus, the immunity you developed from last year’s vaccine gradually decreases over time
Flu Myth: You shouldn’t get the vaccine unless you’re at high risk for complications
Children and the elderly are at greatest risk for flu complications. Healthy adults are less likely to have serious health problems as a result of the flu, but if you live in a household with children or an older person, you could transmit the virus to them even if you don’t become seriously ill. That’s why everyone in your household should get the vaccine. Children under 6 months can’t get the vaccine, so it’s important not to bring the virus home to them.
The influenza vaccine saves lives, and makes it less likely you’ll end up housebound for 2 weeks. Talk to your doctor and make sure you’re a good candidate for the vaccine. If so, protect yourself and your family. It’s a smart move for workplace health and the health of your family.