Dispelling Myths About The Flu Shot
Although summer has just come to a close, your doctors are already thinking about the flu. Why? Because the timing of flu season is unpredictable and can start as early as October.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms usually include a fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. In some serious cases, the flu can lead hospitalization or death.
Since there is the potential for the flu season to begin as early as October, it’s important to start protecting yourself early – and the single best way to do this is by getting the flu shot.
But some people are afraid of getting a flu shot; there are a lot of myths out there that deter many people from receiving it.
Getting the Flu from the Shot
The biggest myth is that you can get the flu from the shot. The injected influenza vaccine only contains the dead virus. Since it’s dead, it can’t infect you.
You also can’t catch the flu from the nasal vaccine because it’s specially engineered to remove the parts of the virus that make people sick.
People often believe they caught the flu from the shot if they get sick shortly after receiving it, but that’s not the case. It takes some time for the vaccine to work its magic and, during that time, you could become exposed to the disease.
“The vaccine can be administered as soon as it’s available, with the patient having sufficient immunity about two weeks after getting the shot,” said Dr. Steven Spencer, Abington Health System’s director of population management. In fact, you could be infected with the flu before you ever feel any of its symptoms and, if that’s the case, the shot can’t help.
Choosing a Vaccine
Since there is more than one type of flu vaccination out there, people can be unsure of which kind is best for them. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) hasn’t expressed a preference for what type of flu vaccine people should get this season except for one.
“The (nasal spray vaccine) can be a good option for healthy people ages two to 49. In fact, it may be a better option for children between the ages of two and eight,” Dr. Spencer said. According to the CDC, there’s evidence that the nasal vaccine works better for healthy children.
Other than that recommendation, the CDC simply stresses the importance of everyone six months and older receiving the flu shot every year.
Some other misconceptions include that pregnant women shouldn’t get the flu vaccine, but Dr. Spencer explained that’s not true.
“All pregnant women or those women who plan to be pregnant during the flu season should receive inactivated influenza vaccine - not the nasal spray vaccine,” he said.
The flu shot also can be given with any other live or inactivated vaccine. The influenza vaccine, not the nasal spray, can also be given safely while the patient is on anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu, Dr. Spencer said.
Although it is recommended to get the flu shot as early in the season as possible, it’s never too late to get vaccinated as long as the flu viruses are still circulating.
“While the season usually peaks in January or February, the season can last as late as May. Patients should be vaccinated until at least the end of February,” Dr. Spencer said.
Call your Abington Health primary care physician today to schedule your flu vaccination or visit an Abington Health- Urgent Care Center. Walk-ins are welcome at our Urgent Care Centers in Feasterville and Flourtown.