Share this article, and see more flu vaccinations this season
Fewer than half of all adults and children get the flu vaccine each year.1 You’ve heard the reasons: “I never get the flu, I’ve heard you can get the flu from the vaccine,” and so on. This year, try having the article below available in your waiting room. It clears up some common misunderstandings about the flu and could convince more patients to get vaccinated. Click here to print the patient handout.
7 Myths About the Flu, Debunked
Health experts agree: the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. But many people don’t, citing reasons that just aren’t backed up by the evidence. Here’s the truth behind some of the most common myths about the flu and flu vaccines:
1. You can catch the flu from cold weather.
You can only get the flu if you catch the flu virus. The virus is often spread through droplets in the air when a person with flu sneezes, coughs or talks. Going out in cold weather without a coat or with wet hair can’t give you the flu.
2. I can avoid catching the flu simply by avoiding people with symptoms.
Actually, you can catch the flu from someone who is infected before they appear sick. Also, some people can be infected but have no symptoms, yet still spread the virus to others.
3. The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that may occur are soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given; fever (low grade); and aches. But they are not the flu.
4. Getting the flu is better than getting the vaccine for building immunity.
It’s true that getting the flu may help develop immunity, but it’s a very risky (and miserable) way to build your natural defenses. Remember that flu can be serious, particularly among the very young, old or ill. Serious consequences can include hospitalization and death, even among healthy people. Vaccination is the safer choice.
5. I never get the flu, so I don’t need the vaccine.
Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean you’re not carrying the flu virus. And if you’re carrying the virus, you can still give it to others. So if not for yourself, get vaccinated for the ones you love.
6. It’s too late to get vaccinated.
Flu season can run from October to March and beyond, peaking from December to February. Because the vaccine takes about two weeks to build up your body’s flu-fighting power, it’s best to get the vaccine early. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination can help prevent flu, even in January or later.
7. It’s best to delay getting vaccinated until just before flu season peaks.
Protection from the vaccine varies from person to person, but studies suggest that in general, immunity lasts through a full flu season for most people.
What’s the takeaway? Flu shots can help keep you and your family healthy through flu season. Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about it. To find a vaccine center near you, visit the federal Flu Vaccine Finder at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.
Are you or a family member experiencing flu-like symptoms? Ask your doctor about testing that can tell whether it’s the flu or another potentially serious infection called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Virus or bacterium? Molecular testing can tell
For patients presenting with flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, fever—to name a few—and especially for the very young or very old, consider molecular infectious disease testing, which offers certain benefits:
- Can confirm whether the patient has a viral infection, enabling the right treatment sooner
- Is highly accurate compared to older methods, like rapid antigen testing
- Can differentiate Flu A and B from RSV. While RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under 1 year of age, it is more commonly found in adults. Read more about RSV.
- Can prevent inappropriate antibiotic use, which will not offer symptom relief for viral infections and can increase antimicrobial resistance
Flu A/B + RSV testing is now available, with results usually delivered within 24 hours. Find a Quest Diagnostics regional lab offering one of our molecular infectious disease offerings.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu vaccination coverage, United States, 2014-15 influenza season. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1415estimates.htm#estimated. Figures were relatively unchanged from the prior year.