The Top 5 Flu Shot Myths

Debunking the top five flu shot myths

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Still on the fence about getting a flu shot? If you ask friends or family their advice, you're likely to get a wide range of opinions. What to do?

This year's flu season is setting in earlier and is predicted to be the worst in years. If there's ever a year to get vaccinated, it's this year. But confusion often keeps people from getting the shot.

Here's how to separate flu shot fact from flu shot fiction.

"Get a flu shot this year at your doctor's, a local clinic, or pharmacy."

The Top 5 Flu Shot Myths

1. It's too late to get the flu shot.

There's no such thing as missing the boat on getting a flu shot. Sure, flu season has started early, and maybe you haven't gotten it yet.

But the window of flu season is open from September until May. That means you have plenty of opportunity to come into contact with flu – and you want to make sure that you're prepared against it.

2. If you're young and healthy, you don't need a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the flu shot for everyone over 6 months. Everyone can get the flu, and it's especially important if you have a new baby to protect against flu.

Those who are most vulnerable to flu are children under the age of two, people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and people with conditions like chronic lung disease, heart disease and neurological and developmental conditions, according to the CDC.

If you fall outside those groups, you're less likely to have flu-related complications that could send you to the hospital. But you can still get the flu, and it is a tough illness that can put you out of commission for weeks.

Only a few types of people should NOT get a flu shot. Those include people with a severe allergy to chicken eggs, those who had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past and people with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

3. The flu shot can give you the flu.

This is a very common misconception. The shot is made of dead virus, so there is no way that you can get the flu from the shot itself, even though it might make your arm tired and sore.

When people report getting the flu after getting the shot, it's likely that they were already sick or were exposed to the flu during the one to two week period it takes for immunity to set in, according to an article from Harvard Medical School.

4. It's okay to skip the flu shot if you've gotten vaccinated in previous years.

Scientists are working on developing a vaccine that will provide life-long immunity, like the polio or chicken pox vaccine. But for the time being, you have to renew your flu shot each and every year, no exceptions.

The flu vaccine contains protection against the three strains of flu that scientists predict will be the dominant strains. But these dominant strains mutate, or change, from year to year.

So the viruses that you were immunized against last year are now different. A new flu shot will give you protection against the types of flu that are likely to cause an outbreak this year.

5. The flu shot is the only thing you need to do to protect yourself against flu.

The flu shot is a solid first step towards avoiding the flu this year. But it's still a good idea to stay away from people who are sneezing and coughing nearby, and always wash your hands carefully.

You still might end up with a cold.  

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 21, 2012
Last Updated:
December 27, 2012