Fending Off the Flu Bug

Fending Off the Flu Bug

Fending Off the Flu Bug

Lee esto en EspañolIt’s flu season. No one wants to suffer through the aches, pains and general misery of being down and out with the flu virus. So what’s your plan to avoid it?  You could stay home and avoid contact with all other humans. You could try holding your breath around others (the flu virus travels in the air when people cough and sneeze). Since these options aren’t practical, you could get a flu shot instead.

New Strains, New Risks

Remember, it’s important to get a flu shot every year because new strains of flu virus appear each year. Here are three good reasons to get the vaccine:

  1. The flu vaccine can keep you from getting the flu. The flu can spread even before symptoms appear, so other people may give you the flu before they know they have it.
  2. The flu vaccine helps prevent complications of the flu, like pneumonia.
  3. For people with chronic health conditions, like diabetes, heart or lung disease, the flu vaccine may lower the risk of hospitalization from a worsening of their chronic condition.

You should also be aware of a few myths about flu shots.

Myth #1: I will get the flu if I get a flu shot.
This is not true. The flu shot is made with either flu viruses that have been inactivated (killed) or with a single piece of protein from the virus. Both methods prevent the flu shot from causing the flu.

Myth #2: I’ll feel bad right after getting a flu shot.
While we’re all different, major reactions to a flu shot are rare. Yet, sometimes you may see:

  • Redness
  • Pain or swelling where the shot was given
  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

These side effects are caused by the immune system’s normal response to the vaccine and usually only last one or two days.

Myth #3: I missed this year’s dose.
It’s best to get the flu shot by the end of October, but it may be available as early as July and as late as January if the virus is still circulating.  If you are unable to get it in September or October, you may want to discuss timing with your health care provider.

Who Should SKIP the Shot?

While the list of reasons for not getting a flu shot is short, it’s well worth considering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leaving site icon (CDC), points out issues you should talk with your doctor about before getting a flu shot. Let your doctor know if you have:

  • An allergy to eggs
  • An allergy to any of the ingredients in the flu vaccine
  • Ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).

Lastly, people who are 65 or older should not get the intradermal flu shot or the jet injector flu vaccine.

Source: Influenza, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023.
Important Plan Information

Originally published 10/25/2016: Revised 2019, 2021, 2024