October is the time of ghosts, goblins, treats… and flu shots. You may be prepared to trick-or-treat, but are you prepared for this year’s flu season? Even though the flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses per year, many of us delay or altogether skip getting the dreaded flu shot. Is it worth it? In this article we answer your questions, debunk myths, and share facts that you need to know about flu shots. 

FACT: The flu shot prevents millions of flu-related illnesses and doctor’s visits each year. 

A recent study showed that the flu vaccine from 2012-2015 reduced hospitalizations by 82% among adults. The flu shot has even shown to lower cardiac events among people with heart disease. 

FACT: Flu shots prepare your body to fight off flu viruses 

Getting a flu shot causes your body to create antibodies that protect against flu viruses. Each year, a flu shot is created that protects against viruses that research predicts will be the most common. 

MYTH: The flu shot can give you the flu 

The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The CDC explains“Flu shots are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ (killed) and that therefore are not infectious, or b) using only a single gene from a flu virus (as opposed to the full virus) in order to produce an immune response without causing infection.” 

MYTH: It is better to get the flu than to get the flu shot 

There are several studies that show that if you still get the flu after getting a flu shot that season, the severity of the illness will be significantly reduced than if you hadn’t gotten the flu shot. As much as we dread flu shots, they are worth it! 

FACT: You can experience minor side effects from getting a flu shot 

The most common side effect of getting a flu shot is minor soreness. Some people can experience a minor headache, low fever, or minor muscle aches. If these symptoms occur, they last no more than 1-2 days, and are much less severe than getting the flu. Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Contact your physician if you experience side effects. 

FACT: The Flu vaccine helps protect women during and after pregnancy 

Getting vaccinated for the flu reduces risk of flu-associated respiratory illnesses by 50% among pregnant womenIn addition to protecting pregnant women, the flu vaccine can also protect babies for several months after birth if their mother received the flu shot. 

FACT: Some of us should NOT get a flu shot 

The CDC recommends that everyone should get a flu shot each year, except for: 

  • Children under 6 months of age 
  • Those with severe, life-threatening allergies to the vaccine. Consult your physician if you have an allergy to eggs or other vaccine ingredients, or if you have Guillain-Barré Syndrome. 

How to Get the Flu Shot 

Walk-in flu shots are available at local pharmacies and are typically free and covered by most insurance plans. Check with your pharmacy today! If you do not have insurance or your insurance does not cover the flu shot, visit Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto or Samaritan House free health clinics in San Mateo, East Palo Alto, Redwood City, or Menlo Park.

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to explore local activities and services at sequoiastrong.org, your personal resource guide to healthy living in our area! 

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Disclaimer: consult your physician before taking any medical action.