According to Health Canada, getting your flu shot is the single, most effective thing you can do to reduce your risk of catching the influenza virus. And yet thousands of Canadians forgo getting the vaccine each year because of common misconceptions and myths about the flu.
Flu season is just around the corner. And that’s an ideal opportunity to look the most common myths, and find out the truth about the flu shot.
Myth #1: You’ll catch the flu from the flu shot
Some people don’t get the flu vaccine because they are concerned the vaccine will give them the flu.
The flu vaccine is made from either an ‘inactivated” version of the influenza virus or created without a virus at all, i.e., synthesized. While a tiny number of people (less than 1%) might experience side-effects — a low-grade fever, muscle aches, or a headache — it’s not the flu, and these symptoms generally go away within 72 hours.
Myth #2: The flu shot is only for sick people; healthy people don’t need it
Because so much emphasis is put on the very young and the very old getting their flu shot, many people fail to realize the flu shot is for everyone.
The very young, seniors, those with compromised immune systems, and others with health vulnerabilities are at an increased risk of catching the flu, and extra effort is made to ensure these groups get the flu shot. But Health Canada recommends that everyone six months of age and up gets vaccinated against influenza unless told by their physician to skip the shot. The vaccine is also an ideal way to protect those in high-risk groups around you because you won’t pass along the virus to them.
Myth #3: You only need to get the flu shot once every three or four years
You got your flu shot last year, and maybe you’re thinking of skipping the shot this year.
The flu virus changes every single year. And that means a new vaccine is needed every year. And while the variations in the virus may be small from one year to the next, your body loses its immunity from the flu over time. To stay protected, you need to get the flu shot every year.
Myth #4: The flu is the same as a bad cold
Just because the flu shares some of the same symptoms as the common cold, it doesn’t mean they’re the same.
Colds and cases of flu are indeed similar, but Health Canada reports that thousands of people become so ill with the influenza virus they require hospitalization. Sadly, each year close to a thousand Canadians die from the influenza virus or its related complications.
Myth #5: Flu vaccines don’t work
You heard about someone who got the flu shot but still got sick. Maybe you’re afraid flu vaccines aren’t effective.
The effectiveness of flu vaccines varies from year to year because the flu virus itself changes from year to year. But studies done by the Centres for Disease Control in the US, among other global health organizations, found that on average, the flu vaccine reduces your chances of catching the flu by up to 60%. And if you or someone you love is in a high-risk group for contracting the virus, that can be life-saving.
With cold and flu season just around the corner, don’t let common misconceptions about the flu vaccine prevent you from getting the shot. Talk to your doctor about making the right decision for you and those who depend on you.