Flu shot: 'FLUUUVAL'
Your first line of defense against the flu.
Wesley Roberts Published: October 14, 2019
This year we’re chanting “FLUUUVAL,” not to be confused with “DUUUVAL,” the official battle cry of Jacksonville Jaguars football fans. It’s time for a winning season…flu season that is. Avoid the flu this year by knowing your flu shot facts and getting vaccinated.
MYTH #1: “The flu shot can give me the flu.”
It’s time for this flu shot myth to be tackled! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. The vaccine is made with either “inactivated” flu viruses that are not infectious or by using only a single gene from a flu virus, which causes an immune response without causing infection.
MYTH #2: “I can’t get the flu shot because I’m pregnant.”
When vaccinated during pregnancy, mothers pass antibodies to the developing baby. There are many studies that show flu shots protect mom and her newest little teammate for several months after birth, when baby isn’t old enough to be vaccinated.
“Influenza infection can be devastating during pregnancy for both the mother and baby,” explained Mobeen Rathore, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology for Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Pregnant mothers can get a particularly severe disease if infected during pregnancy. For the baby, it can result in stillbirth or miscarriage.”
The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get the flu vaccine every season. Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you or your family members, talk to your primary care physician.
MYTH #3: “The flu isn’t serious. I’ll be fine.”
We’re calling a timeout!
“Anyone is at risk for influenza infection, healthy or sick, old or young,” said Dr. Rathore. “People with underlying health conditions, young people or elderly people, can get a particularly serious disease and they are at higher risk of dying from the disease.”
A recent study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit length of stay and overall duration of hospitalization among flu patients.
“When you get the influenza vaccine, you’re not only protecting yourself, you are protecting the people around you,” said Dr. Rathore. “The influenza vaccine is recommended for all ages starting at 6 months of age. Like all vaccines, there are some people who cannot have it or people with underlying health conditions may not respond to the vaccine. To protect those under six months of age, those who cannot get the influenza vaccine and those who may not respond to the vaccine, it is important for others around them to be vaccinated. This is referred to as ‘cocooning.’”
Getting the flu shot isn’t just about protecting yourself; it’s about defending your community as well.
MYTH #4: “The flu shot doesn’t work because people who get the flu shot can still get the flu.”
Flu viruses change constantly and the flu vaccine may be updated from one season to the next as well. That’s why yearly vaccination is needed for the best protection. Getting a flu shot has been shown to reduce risk of illness by an average of 40-60%.
The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu – the first line of defense – but it’s also important to practice other healthy habits:
- Avoid close contact to people who are sick.
- Stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after a fever has disappeared.
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Maintain a strong immune system by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, sleeping well and reducing stress.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have been exposed to the virus.
MYTH #5: “Oops…it’s too late for me to get the flu shot.”
While the CDC recommends people get the flu vaccine by the end of October, getting vaccinated later can also have benefits. Flu season peaks between December and February but activity can last as late as May. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu. Get vaccinated as soon as possible – but it’s not too late!
Let’s tackle the flu together this season by not forgetting to chant “FLUUUVAL” after our flu shots in “DUUUVAL.”