Patients & Care
Flu Fighters – Mythbusters!
There are many myths surrounding the flu and the flu vaccine. As soon as the national flu campaigns begin each year you’re bound to hear someone say, “the flu vaccination gave me the flu,” or “I had it last year, so I don’t need it again.”
We’ve gathered together some of the more common misconceptions and provided clear, straightforward advice to bust the myths.
No Flu vaccines given with a needle (i.e., flu shots) are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ (killed) and that therefore are not infectious, or b) using only a single gene from a flu virus.
No. Flu can be a serious disease, particularly among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults.
Yes. CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone 6 months and older, even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season. The reason for this is that a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the “optimal” or best protection against the flu.
Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. While these reactions can be life-threatening, effective treatments are available.
Some people report having mild reactions to flu vaccination. The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur. If these reactions occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days. In randomized, blinded studies, where some people get inactivated flu shots and others get salt-water shots, the only differences in symptoms was increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.
Yes, it’s fine to have the flu vaccine while you are taking a course of antibiotics, provided you are not ill with a fever.
It takes between 10 and 14 days for your immune system to respond fully after you’ve had the flu vaccine.
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to the end of November. If you’ve missed this time, you can have the flu vaccine later in the winter, although it’s best to get it earlier.
A flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus that can cause unpleasant illness in children and severe illness and death among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical health condition.
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu. It won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after the vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.
There is also evidence to suggest that the flu vaccine can reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains often change. So new flu vaccines are produced each year, which is why people advised to have the flu vaccine need it every year too.
The flu vaccine is available on the NHS for adults and children who are considered “at risk”, as well as children aged between 2 to 10 years old.
You can find out more by speaking to your GP or visiting the NHS site here.