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By Kelly Bourdet, Refinery29Every pharmacy in town is plastered with ads for them. Your mom sends you incessant emails reminding you to get one. But, what's the real truth behind the flu shot? Can it make you sick? Does it even work? And, if you're healthy, does it really pay to get one? Ahead, we investigate some common myths.
The Flu Shot Will Make You Sick Myth! The flu shot is created using dead viruses. They're introduced into your body so that your immune system "learns" their unique properties and will remember them if you really are infected later in the season. So, why does this myth have so much staying power? Well, according to the CDC, older versions of the flu vaccine (and other vaccines) did contain live, weakened viruses, so people could contract a mild case of the flu. But, not anymore.
Many times people receive the flu shot and unknowingly pick up a little bug from their co-worker, then blame it on the poor, innocent vaccine. A scientific study proved it: Whether participants got a flu shot or a placebo, there was no difference in how they felt.
The nasal spray version of the vaccination does contain live viruses, but they've been altered so they can't survive in warmer environments. They're able to survive in your nose, but they can't live in your relatively warmer lungs. So, they can't make you sick.
The Young And The Very Healthy Don't Need To Get Vaccinated
While it's true that young, healthy people will typically get over the flu just fine - although "feeling fine" will come on the heels of "feeling like you were hit by a truck" - getting the flu shot can be about more than just your own, isolated health. If you have family members or friends who are at risk of complications - older adults, young children, people undergoing chemotherapy and with compromised immune systems - then getting your flu shot protects them just as much as it protects you.
You Can Still Get The Flu Even After Getting Vaccinated
This one's true, but there are lots of reasons it can happen. One, you could get a really bad cold - a distinct and less brutal virus - and only think you've got the flu. Two, your body takes two weeks to develop immunity, so if you're exposed just before or just after being vaccinated, then sorry, you might get the flu any way.
It's also possible that you could be exposed to an influenza virus that is very different from the strains contained in the vaccine. The scientists who design the vaccine try really hard to predict which strains will be most prevalent in any season, but they're not psychics, so it doesn't always work out that way.
If You Wait To Get Your Shot, Your Immunity Will Last Longer
Nope, you should get vaccinated ASAP. While flu season typically peaks in January and February, it's unpredictable, so you should get vaccinated as soon as you can. Waiting until December doesn't do anything except open you up to infection now.