Overcoming Fears and Myths About Flu Shots

Doctor vaccinating young woman in clinic

While many people remain focused on COVID-19 and whether it’s time to receive another booster, another virus will soon begin to make the rounds. This one comes with many symptoms similar to coronavirus, such as a cough, fever, and body aches. It is seasonal influenza, and the virus sometimes starts making the rounds as early as October. Peak flu season usually occurs from December through February.

While the flu is no fun at any age, seniors are at highest risk for complications. Here are two reasons why older adults might have difficulty overcoming the influenza virus:

  • Preexisting condition: As we grow older, the risk for developing some health issues increases. The immune system can also become weaker and less able to fight off disease. Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can all be exacerbated by the flu.
  • Complications: Older adults account for nearly 70% of flu-related hospital admissions every year, and an estimated 85% of flu deaths. It’s often because adults over the age of 65 are more likely to experience complications linked to the influenza virus. Pneumonia is one of the most serious.

While the annual vaccine is considered one of the most effective flu prevention measures, not everyone is on board with being vaccinated. For some, their fears are linked to myths about the flu shot. Others just aren’t clear about the benefits. They believe living a healthy lifestyle is protection enough.

As we head into influenza season, let’s take a few minutes to separate the facts from the misperceptions about the flu shot.

Busting Common Myths About Flu Shots
  • The flu vaccine contains a live virus and makes you sick.

Among the most pervasive myths is that the influenza vaccine builds immunity by giving you a small dose of a live flu virus. Some people believe that in order to be protected, the vaccine must first make you sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that’s not true. The influenza vaccine contains either an inactivated virus or a single strain of the flu. It produces an immune response in the body that protects against the flu without making you sick.

  • Flu vaccines don’t change much. You only need it every few years.

This is another persistent myth that it’s critical to bust. The flu shot changes every year based on what researchers believe the worst strains of influenza will be for the upcoming season. Because of that, it’s important to get your flu shot every fall.

  • A flu shot is painful and causes uncomfortable side effects.

Some people avoid getting vaccinated because of a fear of needles and potential side effects. In reality, the needle is very small and causes little discomfort. It helps if you relax your arm as you receive the vaccine and move it around afterward to prevent stiffness. As for side effects, they are typically quite minimal. The most common ones include headache, muscle aches, and soreness at the injection site.

When Should You Receive the Flu Vaccine?

Another consideration is when to schedule your flu shot. Some people worry if they are vaccinated too early in the fall, their immunity won’t last all winter long. While your physician is the best person to answer this question, most health professionals suggest getting your influenza vaccine in mid-October. That gives the body time to build up immunity before flu rates begin to rise.

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Flu prevention is just one of many factors that play a role in aging well. For more tips on living your best life during retirement, we invite you to follow the Life Protect blog. We update it every week with information about health, wellness, senior living, and more!