Healthy You - Every Day

Flu Myths and Facts

We’ll bust influenza myths. You get the shot.

Influenza We’ll bust the myths. You get the shot.

Not getting a flu shot is a lot like eating spaghetti in a white shirt. Either way, you could end up with something you don’t want.

Autumn signals the start of school, falling leaves and influenza (flu) season in the Northern Hemisphere. The influenza virus affects millions of Americans each fall, winter and early spring, causing doctor visits, hospitalizations and deaths. The Pennsylvania Department of Health estimates 5-20% of the state’s residents get the flu each year. The state says 120 to 2,000 people die each flu season from flu complications, the most common of which is pneumonia.

Check with your doctor if you are at higher risk for serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms.

There are a lot of myths out there about the flu and the flu shot, so we hope clearing things up will make you better prepared.

Myth 1: The flu shot can give you the flu.

The simple answer is no. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says that’s because flu vaccines are made with flu viruses that are either weakened, inactivated (killed), or recombinant (made without influenza viruses or eggs). It can take two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective and during that time you might still get the flu or another respiratory virus.

Myth 2: Healthy people don’t need a flu vaccine.

Anyone can get the flu, even someone who considers themselves the pinnacle of good health. Getting vaccinated each year is important for everyone age 6 months and older. And vaccination can help prevent the spread of the virus to others who may be vulnerable to flu and related complications.

Myth 3: The flu is just the same as a bad cold.

Hold the antihistamine; that’s not true. Flu and colds are caused by different viruses and the flu can be a lot worse than the common cold. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and can last two weeks or longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says flu symptoms can include the following:

  • Fever or feeling feverish or having chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

Myth 4: Everyone should get the same flu vaccine.

Most people should get the standard flu vaccine, but those 65 and older can get a high-dose vaccine which prompts a stronger immune response. Senior citizens are at higher risk for severe flu and complications, says the CDC.

Myth 5: The flu vaccine isn’t safe.

The CDC says the flu vaccine has a good safety record, with hundreds of millions of Americans getting the shots over the past 50 years. It’s the best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu or spreading it to others. The flu vaccine can have side effects – such as muscle aches, nausea and fever – but they are generally mild and go away on their own after a few days.

Life-threatening, severe reactions to the flu vaccine are rare and you should not get the vaccine if you have had that reaction to the vaccine or any of its ingredients. Talk with your doctor if you have a reaction to eggs or any of the vaccine components or if you’ve had Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Flu treatment

The CDC says influenza antiviral drugs may be a treatment option if you get the flu. Antiviral drugs work best when started early, such as one to two days after your flu symptoms begin. If that happens, the antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days and could prevent some flu complications.

Bottom line? Check with your doctor if you are at higher risk for serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms

Managing the flu at home

If you have flu symptoms, be sure to stay home, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Avoid contact with others, except to get medical care. (Remember to wear a face mask if you have a respiratory illness and need to go to your doctor's office, ExpressCARE or an emergency room.)

Treat any fever and body aches with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen. Your doctor can tell you which is right for you. Over-the-counter medications also can help with cough.

The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medication.

To reduce the risk of spreading the flu, use tissues when you sneeze and cough and immediately throw them in the trash. Keep your hands washed with soap and water and disinfect surfaces that could be contaminated with flu germs.

Flu shots


How to get your flu vaccination

You can call your primary care provider to schedule your flu vaccination or visit any ExpressCARE location without an appointment. We also operate yearly drive-thru and walk-in flu shot clinics.

Learn more

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