The flu might just be the worst thing about the fall season. When you’re dead set on apple picking and enjoying the crisp, cool air, coming down with the flu puts an unwelcome damper on the otherwise cheery months. Flu symptoms are awful, and if you’ve ever had it, then you know the fever, shivers, sniffles, cough, and overall fatigue can take you out for weeks on end — removing you from Thanksgiving feasts, pumpkin patch visits, or even Christmas dinner if you’re not careful.
The flu shot is a free, accessible, and relatively painless method of prevention against these severe symptoms; there’s no real good excuse for neglecting to get one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases an announcement every year around the start of fall advising everyone who has access to a flu shot to get one ASAP. As effective as certain immune-boosting foods might be, they’re nothing compared to the government-issued shot.
People have always had various hesitations about making the trip to get one. Rumors, suspicions, and general misconceptions about the whole experience have impacted people’s enthusiasm to become immune to a miserable and sometimes dangerous virus. We clear up all of the misconceptions you’ve heard and more in these 15 things you need to know before you get your flu shot.
Though achiness and a low-grade fever seem like alarming reactions to any kind of injection, with the flu shot they’re a pretty typical response. Muscles can get achy and a mild fever can develop without any cause for worry — these symptoms are cited by the CDC as expected effects of getting your shot. They report that these symptoms typically last a couple of days and are no reason to be concerned.
Soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given is the most common side effect of getting a flu shot. The tenderness is a result of your immune response to a foreign substance and should not be cause for concern. You’re not allergic to the flu vaccine — we promise.
According to the CDC, seasonal flu outbreaks can start as early as October. You’re going to want to be protected before then, and doctors agree. The virus takes two weeks to go into full effect, so plan your pharmacy visit accordingly.
Less than half of all pregnant women get a vaccine, and that’s a problem. Contrary to popular belief, when you’re pregnant is actually the most important time to gain immunity, and the shot can’t adversely affect the unborn baby. With a bun in the oven, you’re at an elevated risk of flu-related complications. To protect your pregnancy and, as an added bonus, automatically deliver your acquired immunity to your child once she or he is born, get your shot as directed by your doctor.
Though the infections start picking up steam as early as October, the peak flu season begins in December and usually lasts around three months. Even in March, though, it’s still not necessarily over. You can still be exposed to an active flu virus as late as May.
It’s not a common food allergy, but this used to be an issue; flu vaccines are made using egg-based technology. This caused some concern. Though previous recommendations warned that egg-allergic patients needed to be monitored for 30 minutes after getting their flu shot, the CDC has updated their advice to remove this precaution. The change reflects recent studies which reveal that allergic reactions to the egg compounds in the shot are extremely rare for all demographics. If an allergy does flare up, the CDC is confident that whatever health care professional is delivering the vaccine will be competent enough to treat the reaction before it becomes serious.
So there’s no reason to put off getting your vaccine. Though the immunity might not be as strong come wintertime, it’ll still help protect against infection. And according to the CDC, the strength of immunity lasts throughout the fall.
This is a myth. Flu vaccines aren’t made with actual live strains of the virus — so a resulting illness would be impossible. According to the CDC, the vaccines are either made with deactivated strains of the virus or no flu virus at all. If you get the flu after your shot, it’s either from a different strain of flu virus or you were already infected.
In addition to muscle soreness, flu shots have been known to cause brain soreness, too — in other words, you could get a headache. While headaches are mildly uncomfortable, they’re nowhere near as bad as the full onslaught of flu symptoms you’re risking by skipping your vaccine. Get your shot, and if things get a little painful, you can try one of these headache remedies until the ache disappears.
According to a study published last year in JAMA Pediatrics, there is absolutely no significant relation between flu vaccines and the development of autism. Earlier studies that had suggested the association were much smaller; the more recent study argues that these likely were flawed in their design or showed an association due to pure chance. Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who popularized the theory that flu shots cause autism, was shown to have faked his published paper on the topic; he lost his license to practice medicine as a result.
Every year, there’s a new flu shot. That’s because the virus is frequently evolving — adapting to resist the various defenses we have against it. For this reason, there have been billions of different varieties of the flu in existence, and the most prevalent ones change every year. However, others still exist; no single shot could possibly protect against them all. Even if you get your flu shot like you’re supposed to, you could still get sick.
It’s an urban legend that doubling up on your flu shot doubles your immunity. The CDC recalls studies that investigated the difference in rates of sickness dependent on whether participants got one shot or two — they were the same. Sorry, everyone. It’s one and done.
Your immunity doesn’t catch on as soon as the needle pricks your skin — it takes some time for the body to react. It takes two weeks, to be exact, for the body to build up the necessary antibodies to protect against infection. Continue to be careful not to expose yourself to the virus throughout this period. You might want to take extra precautions to wash your hands often and sanitize some of the dirtier areas of your household.
Even if the strain of virus is the same the following year, you need a new shot.
You need to reset your immunity — it wears off over time. The CDC advises a yearly flu shot for anyone over six months old.
While in previous years nasal sprays were considered one of two equivalent options for receiving your vaccination, last year experts recommended against them entirely. The nasal spray was proven ineffective for the 2016 strain of flu virus, making the spray pointless. This year, the recommendation was reiterated. The shot just works way better.
In summary, you should really get your flu shot this year. Despite what your suspicions tell you, it works more effectively than any other prevention method out there — even these homeopathic ones.