Another year has gone by already. Brace yourselves: Flu season is coming. And along with the coughing, fevers and aches, you can expect a lot of unreliable or downright wrong information about the flu vaccine. While you can’t entirely germ-proof yourself or your child, you can learn to separate fact from fiction, keep your family healthier, save time, money and frustration. Let’s start by putting some of the more common myths and misunderstandings to rest.

 

I still have time — flu season hasn’t started yet

 

The timing of flu season is unpredictable. While it peaks from October to January, it’s hard to say when the virus will start making its rounds. Not only that, but it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in. If you procrastinate, you could end up getting it too late in the season to help. And what’s worse than getting both a shot and sick?

 

I’m protected because I received the flu vaccine last year

 

It’s not true because the virus strains can change every year, so last year’s vaccine may not be effective against this year’s virus strains.

 

The 2016 to 2017 flu vaccine contains the following:

 

A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus

A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus

B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

 

I can’t get a flu shot because I have a cold

 

As long as you don’t have a fever above 38 Celsius or any other significant illness, it’s okay to get the flu shot before your cold clears up.

 

Flu vaccinations are only for older people

 

Not true. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for anyone six months and older. The only people that the CDC says should not receive the flu shot are pretty rare cases, so you’re running out of excuses. These are:

 

— People who have had a severe reaction to the influenza vaccine

 

— People with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome after receiving the flu vaccine

 

— People who are moderately or severely ill — they should wait until they’re better before being vaccinated

 

The flu shot will make me sick

 

Flu shots are made with inactivated flu virus, which cannot give you the actual flu. The most common reaction is soreness or redness at the site of the actual infection. A very small percentage of people will get a low-grade fever and aches as their body builds up an immune response, but this will only last one to two days.

 

Antibiotics can kill the germs that cause colds and the flu

 

Antibiotics work well against bacterial infections, but they don’t treat a viral infection like the flu. If someone develops a serious complication of the flu, such as pneumonia, then they need antibiotics. But antibiotics won’t help your flu at all and may actually cause unwanted side effects.

 

I’m pregnant so I should not get the shot

 

Incorrect. The flu vaccine protects both you and your baby. The flu is, in fact, more likely to cause severe illness and complications if you’re expecting. It can also cause premature labour and other health issues for your baby. And here’s good news; the flu shot you get now will protect your baby after birth.

 

Flu vaccines don’t work. I’ll probably catch the flu anyway

 

Every year, scientists attempt to predict which strains of the flu virus will be most prevalent that fall. It’s a tough estimate, as the flu can mutate in months, and sometimes even within a single season. But if you do end up catching the flu, you’ll have a much milder case of it. Flu vaccines reduce the risk of flu substantially, though their effectiveness in any particular year varies. The flu vaccine cuts your risk of getting the flu by 50 to 70% .

 

So if you think the flu isn’t a big deal, then you’ve probably never had the flu. Come visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi in October and November, you’ll see people of all ages, dehydrated and feeling miserable.

 

Even worse, certain groups of people are even more vulnerable and can develop deadly complications from the flu. Thousands of people die every year from the flu — as many as 49,000, with over 200,000 hospitalized.

 

It’s that time of the year again — flu shot time. Go get your flu shot!

 

Dr. Philippe Jean Collin is a French pediatrician working for Family Medical Practice, Hanoi. For more information or medical advice, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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