11 Myths About the Flu Vaccine

Your body—and everyone else's around you—will thank you.At publication time, the Centers For Disease Control is not monitoring influenza outbreaks because of the government shutdown. This makes it even more imperative that everyone gets a vaccine as soon as possible, to reduce the chance of a dangerous outbreak that the CDC won't be able to respond to.

Flu season is upon us, and with it comes the annual rehashing of flu myths. Don't fall for them-particularly the tall tales about flu vaccines. Most everyone benefits from vaccination, and it is especially important for people who are at greater risk for flu and those who interact with them regularly, including young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease.

MORE: How the Flu Vaccine Works

Still think you don't need one? Read on for YouBeauty's debunking of the top flu myths.

Caveat: Even though most people should be vaccinated against the flu, there are a few scenarios where you should proceed with caution. If you are allergic to chicken eggs, make sure you receive the right shot, as most have traces of egg protein due to a manufacturing process. If you have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, consult your doctor before getting vaccinated. If you've had a reaction to the flu shot in the past, skip the vaccination (ditto for children under 6 months old). And if you have flu-like symptoms, including fever, postpone the shot until you are well.

Myth No. 1: The Flu Vaccine Will Give Me The Flu
It is impossible for any flu vaccine to give you the flu-flu shots are made from inactivated viruses and the nasal spray contains weakened viruses, and neither will infect you with influenza. Vaccines do have occasional mild side effects. The shot may leave you with a sore arm for a day or two, and you may also run a low fever and have some body aches. The nasal spray may give you a runny nose, sore throat, headache and cough. But the actual flu is far worse.

Myth No. 2: The Flu is No Biggie, So There Is No Need to Vaccinate
Influenza can lead to all kinds of dangerous complications, particularly lung infections such as pneumonia. It puts more than a quarter of a million people in the hospital annually, and has caused between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths per year over the last few decades (some flu seasons are worse than others).

Myth No. 3: I'm Healthy, So I Don't Need a Flu Shot
Although certain people are at greater risk, even the young and healthy can catch the flu and suffer complications. And, while your own bout with flu might not be so bad, you are exposing your family and friends to the virus, which is especially bad news for those who are vulnerable to flu complications.

MORE: Why You Might Get Sick Even After Being Vaccinated

Myth No. 4: The Flu Vaccines Are Dangerous
Flu vaccines have been around for decades and their safety is well documented and monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. According to a CDC survey, an estimated 128 million people reported that they were vaccinated in the 2011-2012 flu season, the latest years for which data is available. (132.1 million flu doses were available that year.) That's millions of people who were vaccinated, with no reports of major negative reactions. The CDC says that any side effects are usually mild and include flu-like symptoms that pass in a day or two. (This is not the flu itself-see Myth No. 1.) The chances of a serious allergic reaction are about one in a million.

Myth No. 5: The Flu Vaccine Protects Against Stomach Flu
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The stomach flu-a common name for gastrointestinal illness involving vomiting or diarrhea-is unrelated. The flu vaccine will not protect you against the stomach flu.

Myth No. 6: Cold Weather Will Give You The Flu
While the flu season and cold weather happen at the same time, temperature has nothing to do with catching the flu. Exposure to the influenza virus is what gives you the flu.

Myth No. 7: I Already Got the Flu This Year, So I Don't Need to Vaccinate
There are usually multiple strains of flu going around each year, so exposure to one won't necessarily make you immune to another.

MORE: Can You Work Out When You're Sick?

Myth No. 8: I Got a Flu Shot Last Year, So I Don't Need It This Year
The flu virus mutates from year to year, so your last shot might not protect you from the strains floating around now.

Myth No. 9: I Took Too Long To Get My Shot, and Now It's Too Late
Flu season typically peaks in January or February, and can extend anywhere from fall until late spring. Unless it's summertime, it's never too late to get vaccinated.

Myth No. 10: I'll Just Take Tamiflu or Antibiotics If I Get Sick
While there are a couple of prescription-only antiviral medications available to treat the flu-Tamiflu and Relenza-neither will cure the flu. Both will cut the time you are sick by a day or two, but should be taken within 48 hours of infection in order to be most effective. And neither drug will protect you from getting another strain of the flu later in the season, or from infecting other people. Antibiotics never work against the flu. They are intended for bacterial infections, and influenza is caused by a virus.

Myth No. 11: Instead of the Flu Vaccine I Can Protect Myself With Vitamins
There is no solid scientific evidence confirming that any vitamin works as a flu preventative or cure, although some studies suggest taking vitamin D in conjunction with a flu vaccine may decrease the chance of infection or otherwise help boost the immune system. That's in conjunction with, not in place of.

- by Brooke Borel

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