As we experience the COVID-19 pandemic, fall brings risk of another virus – the flu. In 2020, the flu season was milder than usual as COVID-19 precautions like mask-wearing, hand washing and avoiding crowded places helped prevent flu infection. This year, with schools back in-person and more people returning to the office and venturing out of the house, it’s important to take action to protect yourself and your family by getting a flu vaccine.
Even though flu vaccines have been available for years, patients still have many questions, says Dr. Stephanie Bruns, an internal medicine specialist at Tryon Medical Partners Waverly. There are many myths about flu shots, which Dr. Bruns works to dispel with her patients, giving them the information they need to make healthy choices.
Is it possible something you believe about flu shots is simply a myth? Dr. Bruns shares the six common misconceptions she hears most often.
Myth – When I get the flu shot, it gives me the flu.
Even if you feel mild symptoms after getting your flu shot, what you’re experiencing is not the flu but rather your immune system’s natural reaction to getting a vaccine.
“Just like any immunization you get, your immune system is working properly and making antibodies, something that can mimic the flu, though it’s not actually the flu,” Dr. Bruns says. “It’s better to have these mild symptoms that last just a few days because after that, you’re protected from the flu and serious infection.”
Myth – I’m super healthy and don’t need the flu shot.
The flu shot is recommended for everyone six months and older as severe flu infections can happen to anyone.
“Even if you do have a breakthrough case of influenza, the flu shot protects you from severe flu and being hospitalized,” Dr. Bruns says.
Vaccination also prevents the spread of flu to higher-risk individuals like young children and older adults. Those who are 65 and older should receive the high-dose flu shot that contains more of the viral antigens to produce an immune response, making it more protective against the flu.
Myth – I shouldn’t get the flu shot and my COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.
It is safe to get both your COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time. If you are worried about not feeling well due to the immune system response that can happen with immunizations, you can plan to space them a few weeks apart.
Myth – If I don’t get the shot at the start of the flu season, I missed the window.
The best time to get the flu shot is at the beginning of flu season in October so you’ll be protected for the duration. However, it’s never too late. Flu season runs through early spring so even if you don’t get a flu shot at the very beginning, it’s still important to be vaccinated later in the season.
Myth – I have an egg intolerance so I shouldn’t get the flu shot.
There is a little egg in how the flu vaccine is manufactured, Dr. Bruns says. If you have a mild allergy to eggs, like only getting hives or a rash, you can still get a flu shot safely. If you have a severe egg allergy, you can still get the shot but in a monitored setting and after a conversation with your doctor.
Myth – I’m afraid of needles so I can’t get a flu shot.
There is an option for a nasal vaccine if you are very afraid of needles. This nasal option for the flu shot is only recommended for those ages two through 49 and is not for those who are pregnant or immunosuppressed. Nasal flu shots are not available everywhere so call prior to making an appointment.
Since COVID-19 and the flu are both respiratory viruses, they have many of the same symptoms making it hard to tell which you might have if you do become sick. This makes getting tested even more important if you have viral symptoms like body aches, fever or runny nose.
Whether you have questions about testing or the flu shot, having a relationship with a primary care provider means you have a partner in the process who can make the best recommendations for your family. Find your ally in health at Tryon Medical Partners.