September 19, 2019 Healthy Living

Fact or Fiction: Flu Shots

The changing of the leaves marks the start of flu season, which generally begins in October and lasts through May. The thought is painful, but the reality is that we’re at risk for the flu and all of its nastiness for much of the year.

The flu shot is the best way to prevent infection. Unfortunately, there are many myths concerning the flu and flu shots that cause apprehension about getting vaccinated. This results in more illnesses, more spreading of the virus, more missed work and school, and more fevers, chills, coughing, sore throats, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue and more.

Sounds unpleasant, huh? That’s why it’s important to get your flu shot when the vaccine becomes available, typically in September. Take a look at the common flu shot misconceptions bel16-2139-flu-shot-blog-post_no-fluow and don’t hesitate to get vaccinated. By protecting ourselves, we protect each other.

Fiction: The flu shot is dangerous and can give you the flu.

Fact: The flu shot is safe and made with inactivated viruses that cannot cause the flu. Some people may experience flu symptoms after getting the shot because:

  • They became ill with a different respiratory virus;
  • They were exposed to the flu virus before getting the shot or during the two-week period after vaccination needed to build immunity; or
  • They were exposed to a different flu strain that the shot wasn’t designed to prevent.

Fiction: Flu shots are only for the sick and elderly.

Fact: Everyone ages 6 months and older should receive a seasonal flu shot. Those with severe, life-threatening allergies to certain flu shot ingredients are the exception. Even the healthiest people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

Fiction: Getting a flu shot every year isn’t necessary.

Fact: A flu shot is necessary every year because flu viruses are constantly changing and vaccines are updated yearly. Also, your immunity from the flu shot declines over time, so an annual shot is essential.

Fiction: I’m allergic to preservatives or egg proteins in the flu shot, so I can’t get it.

Fact: If you’re allergic to preservatives, you can get a preservative-free flu shot. In fact, pregnant and breastfeeding women should get this shot. There is also an option for those with an egg allergy – this vaccination should be given in your doctor’s office.

Fiction: The flu is just a bad cold.16-2139-flu-shot-blog-post_hospitalized

Fact: The flu is a very contagious disease that infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) and can lead to serious complications. About 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized and thousands die each year from the flu. Prevention is key!

Fiction: I had the flu this year, so I don’t need the flu shot vaccine.

Fact: There are usually several strains of the flu each year. You can get other strains even if you already had the flu. Getting the flu shot helps protect you from a second bout and prevents you from spreading it to others.

Flu shots are available at your doctor’s office and many other locations. CDPHP members are encouraged to take advantage of their no-cost flu shot benefit.

Beyond the flu shot, there are other ways to fight germs during this cold and flu season. People should keep a distance from those who are sick, and those who are sick should stay home. Clean hands are also crucial to good health. Germs are spread on doorknobs, railings, toys, and other surfaces people touch throughout the day. Frequent handwashing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds is very effective in the fight against germs.

Peter Vellis
About Author

Peter A. Vellis, DO, joined CDPHP in February 2015 as medical director. In this role, Dr. Vellis assists in the utilization management programs and with the Enhanced Primary Care initiative. He is chairman of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee. Dr. Vellis is currently on faculty at the Family Medicine Residency program of Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. Prior to joining CDPHP, Dr. Vellis served as medical director at the University at Albany, medical director of the Seton Health Urgent Care Center in Clifton Park, faculty member at Albany Medical Center’s Family Practice Residency, and Public Health Service Physician with the Indian Health Service on the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, AZ. Dr. Vellis earned his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the New England College of Osteopathic Medicine and a Bachelor of Science degree in bio-physics from Union College. He completed his family practice residency and sports medicine fellowship at Albany Medical Center and is board certified in family medicine with a CAQ in primary care sports medicine.

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