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Arm with a Flu shot Band-Aid

Top 10 Flu Myths for the 2023-2024 Flu Season Revealed

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It’s that time of year again and you may be wondering about whether you should get the flu shot. To help you make your final decision, here are 10 flu myths revealed.

Myth #1: Not everyone should get the flu vaccine
Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and others. Everyone 6 months and older should get it every year. It will help guard you against the three or four flu virus strains predicted to affect most people that flu season. Scientists update the vaccine each year. Talk to your doctor if you have health concerns or questions. Patients should get their flu shot at their most convenient source, either through Primary Care, Urgent Care or their closest pharmacy

Myth #2: Antibacterial hand products are more effective than hand washing during flu season

The truth is one type of soap is not more effective than the other. Antibacterial soap or gel won’t protect you any more than plain old soap and water. If you wash your hands often and well -for at least 20 seconds, you’ll get rid of germs and viruses that stick to oil on your hands. The most important things is clean your hands often – with regular soap and water, antimicrobial soap and water, or waterless alcohol based hand sanitizer.

Myth #3: The flu doesn’t change every year
Like most viruses, the flu is always mutating and flu strains change all the time. They can vary from year to year. They can even change in the middle of a flu season. That is why it is important to get the flu vaccine every year.

Myth #4: Antibiotics help fight the flu
Antibiotics only help with infections caused by bacteria. The flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria.

Instead of antibiotics, antiviral drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) can fight the flu virus and make you feel better faster. They work best if you take them within two days of getting sick, so be sure to ask your doctor about these meds ASAP if you think you have flu symptoms.

Myth #5: The flu vaccine will protect me from COVID-19 as well

Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, so it is encouraged to get both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine. Both Flu and COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk complications, hospitalization and death due to the flu and COVID. The CDC states you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, such as the flu shot, at the same visit. Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019 and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever.

Myth #6: Flu vaccines contain dangerous ingredients like mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze
Flu shot ingredients are safe and even persons with egg allergies can receive flu vaccines

Myth #7: You can still get the flu even after getting a flu shot
While it's true that the flu shot cannot offer 100 percent protection against the flu, it does reduce your risk of getting more serious disease from it. Many people mistake symptoms from colds and other illnesses for the flu.

Myth #8: The stomach flu is the flu (influenza)
The stomach flu refers to a variety of gastrointestinal illnesses unrelated to influenza.

Myth #9: The way you feel after the flu shot means you have the flu
The most common side effects of the flu shot are mild, such as headache, fatigue, cough, low fever and arm soreness lasting a couple of days. Fewer than 1 in a million people experience severe allergic reactions. It’s possible to get sick with the flu even if you have been vaccinated (although you won’t know for sure unless you get a flu test). This is possible for the following reasons:

  • You may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with the flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection develop in the body.
  • You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.

Myth #10: If you haven't gotten the flu shot by November, there's no point in getting one
Getting the flu shot any time during flu season will reduce your risk of getting the flu.

So as a newly informed flu reader, go out and spread the word about why most people should receive the flu vaccine each year. It’s a simple way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Please discuss any health questions or concerns you may have with a medical professional.

Editor's note - This blog was originally published on June 22, 2018 and has since been updated.

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