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Published on October 21, 2020

4 flu shot myths debunked

4 flu shot myths debunked

One of the best ways to keep you and your family safe during flu season is by getting a flu shot. Unfortunately, rumors about the vaccine stop some people from taking this simple step to protect themselves. To help prevent unnecessary illnesses, we're debunking some of the most common misconceptions around flu shots. And we're starting with one of the biggest.

Myth 1: I'll get sick if I get a flu shot.

Truth: The flu shot does not cause the flu. Scientists use pieces of the virus to carefully develop a vaccine that guards against making you ill. Simply put, the flu shot is not an injection of the flu virus.

"If you do feel a little bit under the weather after you get a flu shot, it's likely that your body is developing an immune response against the vaccine," says Gundersen infection preventionist Megan Meller.

That's good.

"If you do get exposed to the real thing then, your body will know exactly what to do and will have a really strong immune response," Meller says.

Myth 2: The flu shot isn't effective.

Truth: While the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, every year it prevents many people from getting ill and reduces the severity and duration of the flu for others. These benefits apply to both adults and children.

"Children are one of the main populations that we really want to make sure are vaccinated during flu season, especially younger children," Meller says. "Their immune systems are still learning and developing, which can make them more susceptible to severe side effects from the flu."

It's recommended to vaccinate children as young as 6 months old. If your child has an underlying chronic health condition or you have concerns, talk to their pediatrician.

Myth 3: The flu shot doesn't protect me.

Truth: It's possible to still get the flu after being vaccinated. However, if you end up catching the flu and are immunized, you're less likely to fall severely ill.

"Getting the flu shot is one of the main ways that we can help keep people from being hospitalized due to influenza … We want to try to keep people as healthy as possible," Meller says.

That means getting a flu shot even if the vaccine doesn't offer total protection.

Ultimately, getting a flu shot helps keep you safe, as well as your loved ones and the community—including those who can't be vaccinated because of underlying medical reasons and who are most vulnerable to circulating illnesses like the flu.

Myth 4: I don't ever need to see a doctor for the flu.

Truth: If you're sick with the flu for more than five days or your symptoms—like a fever—are getting worse, seek medical attention as soon as possible. This advice also applies if you can't keep liquids down.

"When people are hospitalized with the flu, it's most often due to a secondary infection, not the virus itself," Meller says.

In these cases, it can be critical to receive medical care.

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