Here's everything you need to know about the flu shot — from when to get it to what it even does.
1. You can get the flu from the flu shot.
Myth. A flu shot can't cause the illness. Vaccines are made with either inactivated flu virus or none at all. Soreness, redness, or swelling your body's immune response should be all you experience, though some people may also have a slight fever and muscle aches (a cakewalk compared with the flu's state of complete misery).
2. You have to get the flu shot before December or it's ineffective.
Myth. Sure, it's best to get vaccinated before flu activity begins to pick up (usually by the end of October). But the CDC says you can get pricked anytime that flu viruses are circulating, which can continue until late May.
3. Your flu shot may not work as well if you take certain meds.
True. Some recent studies found that statins, the widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs, may reduce the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine. But a statin Rx is no reason to skip the shot. (The flu can be especially risky for people with heart trouble.) Get vaccinated, then stay über committed to following other flu-fighting strategies such as hand washing.
4. The flu vaccine is effective against the stomach flu.
False. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal illness. What many people call the stomach flu (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and general blah-ness) is likely caused by another virus, bacteria, or parasite.
5. Your dog can get a flu vaccination too.
True. Yep, you can protect Fido against canine influenza, or dog flu, an illness that kenneled and shelter dogs in particular may pick up. Symptoms to look out for in your pup look a lot like what you would come down with — cough, runny nose, and fever. (Luckily, there are no reports of the doggie version of the virus spreading to humans.) Talk to your veterinarian about whether your pet should get the shot. There's no vaccine for cats, but good news for Whiskers: The virus typically doesn't cause illness in felines.
6. Being vaccinated guarantees you won't come down with the flu.
False. Vaccines aren't perfect, but they're the best protection we've got. In some years, the shot reduced the risk of flu by 50 to 60 percent. Remember the last time you had the flu? Not fun. Sign on for any prevention possible.
7. The nasal-spray flu vaccine isn't a recommended alternative to the shot.
True. Unfortunately, the nasal-spray flu vaccine isn't being recommended for this year's flu season, because it wasn't found to be effective enough during some prior years. Needle phobes might consider the intradermal flu vaccine instead. It uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu vaccine and is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. (Just call ahead first, since it may not be available at some local urgent care or walk-in clinics.)
8. Getting the flu shot in the morning makes it more effective.
True. Flu shots may be more effective when given in the a.m. The boost was seen in older adults, but younger folks could benefit from morning shots too.
This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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