It's that time of the year again. The holidays don't just usher in pretty lights and presents, but also flu season. And like every year, myths about the flu vaccine start circulating.
So let's debunk a couple of myths so we can all be healthier, happier and a lot less paranoid.
1. You can catch the flu from the vaccine.
This is probably the most told lie about the flu vaccine. You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The vaccine is one of two formulas: one has inactive flu viruses which are not infectious, while the other contains no flu viruses at all. The shot itself does have side effects, such as soreness around the injection location, as well as muscle aches, but these are not the flu and go away quickly.
"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," says the CDC. "There were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat."
2. New flu strains make the vaccine obsolete by the time you get it.
This is one of those myths that has some truth to it. Flu strains often mutate and change. In fact, this year, the CDC admitted that a mutation will make this year's vaccine less effective. However, the agency still stresses the importance of vaccination, as it still protects from other strains and can decrease the effects of the mutated strain.
"The flu is bad, and you want to do anything you can to prevent getting it and to prevent giving it to other people," says Dr. Lisa Thebner, a pediatrician in New York City. "The vaccine isn't perfect, but it's the best protection we have for prevention."
3. I'm healthy. I don't need the vaccine.
Like it or not, even healthy people get the flu. And those people can also spread it. The more people vaccinated, the less chance that the virus spreads around your community. Not only does getting a flu vaccine protect you, but it also protects those around you.
4. Pregnant women should not get a flu shot.
This is one of those outright lies. Pregnant women should definitely get a flu shot because they are more susceptible to catching the illness. And the antibodies created by the flu vaccine get passed down from mother to child, protecting the infant from the flu for its first few months of life.
5. You can still get the flu after getting a flu shot.
This one is partly true because of mutating strains of flu turning up throughout the season. However, the flu shot lowers your risk of getting the flu, but also lessens symptoms, which means that you're not as sick for as long of a time as you would be without getting the shot.
[Photo Credit: Wiki Commons]