Each autumn when temperatures drop, the rates of respiratory viruses such as the flu will start to increase. If you’ve had the flu before, you may remember having a fever, sore throat and muscle aches.

Although the flu is generally regarded as a bad cold, it is important to remember that the flu is caused by a different virus. It can produce severe symptoms and cause complications that could potentially lead to hospitalization or death – especially in more vulnerable populations like the elderly. Luckily, every year, there is a flu vaccine available that is tailored to the current, predominant strains of the virus.

Even though the flu vaccine has been around since 1945 and has been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy, some are still hesitant to get vaccinated. A number of these concerns stem from common myths about the risks, benefits and necessity of the vaccine.

We want to make sure you have all the information you need about the virus and the vaccine to keep you and your family healthy this flu season. With that in mind, we want to debunk the following common misconceptions.

Five Common Myths About the Flu

  1. The flu vaccine can make you sick with the flu.

The virus in the vaccine has been killed or inactivated. This means the vaccine cannot infect you with the flu. It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to boost a sufficient immune response to protect you from infection. If you happen to get sick shortly after receiving the vaccine, you were likely already infected or recently infected with the flu or another respiratory virus.

  1. Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated.

Everyone – even healthy people – are susceptible to viruses. Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend yearly vaccination against influenza for anyone older than 6 months of age, including pregnant women. Flu symptoms like fever, fatigue and muscle aches can make even the healthiest of us feel terrible – getting the vaccine helps prevent infection and often results in milder symptoms if you happen to contract the flu. Getting vaccinated is also important to protect others who may be more susceptible to the flu including adults over 65 and children less than five, especially infants less than six months who are unable to receive the vaccine. Individuals with certain medical conditions including diabetes, asthma, history of heart disease, stroke or those who are immunocompromised are also at increased risk of contracting the flu.

  1. Getting the flu vaccine is all you need to protect yourself from the flu.

In addition to getting your annual flu vaccine, there are other precautions you can take to protect yourself during flu season. For example, you can avoid being around others who are sick, wash your hands frequently with soap and water and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  1. You don’t need to get a flu shot every year.

Like all viruses, the flu changes over time leading to strains that can potentially spread easier and cause more severe illness. Getting the flu vaccine each year is the only way to ensure you have immunity to the strains of the virus that are circulating during the current season.

  1. If you have a high fever with the flu that lasts more than a day or two, antibiotics may be necessary.

Antibiotics work well against bacteria, but they are not effective for viral infections like the flu. According to the CDC, the side effects from unnecessary antibiotics can do more harm than good, potentially leading to antibiotic resistant infections or conditions like Clostridioides difficle  (C. diff) which can cause severe diarrhea.  If you contract the flu or develop flu-like symptoms, reach out to your primary care provider or local pharmacist to discuss treatment options.

Flu season starts in October and peaks between December and February. Ideally, you should aim to get the vaccine by the end of October, but vaccination at any time during flu season is worthwhile. If you have questions about which flu vaccine is right for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pharmacist for a recommendation. Get a jump start on protecting yourself and your family during this flu season and get your vaccine today!

You can call UofL Physicians – Primary Care at 502-588-4343 to schedule an appointment for your flu vaccination or to make an appointment with a primary care provider. You can visit one of the following UofL Health – Pharmacy locations for flu vaccination as well:

If you have moderate to severe flu symptoms, you can visit your nearest UofL Health – Urgent Care Plus location.

Additional Resources:

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Nina Collins

Nina Collins is a fourth-year student at University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. She is a Louisville native and is completing her advanced practice rotations with the Louisville Clinical Education Center. She is interested in specializing in infectious disease and solid organ transplant after graduation.

All posts by Nina Collins
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