On Your Health

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Let's Take on Cold and Flu Season

It’s that time of year. Each day another friend, coworker or child seems to be coming down with something. How can you avoid a cold and flu altogether?

Myths About the Flu and the Flu Vaccine

Cue the muscle aches, congestion, fever and fatigue: flu season is upon us. Unfortunately, the flu can be more than just a few days home from work or school. This virus can have grave consequences for many high-risk groups, but getting vaccinated can help mitigate that risk. Skeptical of the flu vaccine? Here’s why you shouldn’t be.

Oklahoma and the Flu

During the 2014-2015 flu season, 2,326 Oklahomans were hospitalized for the virus or complications from it, and 101 of those Oklahomans died from the flu. For every Oklahoman, but especially for those who are high-risk or who take care of those who are high-risk, getting a yearly flu vaccine is extremely important.

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When it comes to the flu, these myths are not true

Just like a virus, myths about the flu and the flu vaccine spread each year. Know the truth during this season of compromised health.

Myth: The flu vaccine causes people to get the flu

The flu vaccine can cause mild side effects that sometimes mimic flu symptoms, but rest assured, the vaccine itself does not cause the flu. According to the CDC, "Influenza vaccine produced in the United States has never been capable of causing influenza because the only type of influenza vaccine that has been licensed in the United States to the present time is made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause infection."

Rarely, a strain of flu may appear that was not included in the latest flu vaccine. If people who have been vaccinated do contract that new strain of the flu, they tend to have milder symptoms.

Myth: The flu is just a bad cold

While symptoms of the cold and flu may appear very similar, there are key differences to know.

Myth: I got a flu vaccine last year so I don’t need another one

Flu viruses constantly change over time.  A new flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with new strains of the virus as they appear and as they change.  Also, a person’s immune protection from the flu vaccines weakens over the course of a year. Yearly flu vaccines are necessary for maximum protection.

Myth: There is only one type of flu vaccine

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says there are seven different vaccines available for the 2016-2017 season.

  • The regular flu shot for people 6 months and older
  • An intradermal (given in the skin) flu shot for people 18 to 64 years of age
  • A cell culture-based flu shot for people 18 years and older
  • A high-dose flu shot for seniors 65 years and older
  • An egg-free vaccine for people 18 years or older (recommended for people with egg allergies)
  • The quadrivalent flu shot (several different types available for people of different ages), which protects against four strains of the virus
  • A nasal spray vaccine for healthy, non-pregnant people 2 to 49 years old (recommended for healthy children 2 to 8 years old

Myth: Those with existing respiratory problems should not get a flu vaccine

Actually, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, lung disease, blood disorders, and heart disease should be vaccinated because of their extra-high risk of contracting the flu. Anyone with a weakened immune system because of disease or medication (including those with cancer, HIV, or those on chronic steroids) is also at extremely high risk and should be vaccinated.

Myth: Young children’s immune systems are too fragile to get the flu vaccine

The Oklahoma State Department of Health encourages parents to have their children vaccinated, except for babies younger than 6 months old. Receiving a flu vaccine helps decrease the chance of contracting the virus from day care or school.

Myth: The flu vaccine is dangerous for pregnant women

Pregnant women are at serious risk of dangerous complications if they contract the flu, and should be vaccinated.

Myth: People with allergies should not get the vaccine

People who have an egg allergy could potentially experience a very dangerous side effect to the flu vaccine, so they should consult with their physician and seek the egg-free flu vaccine if they do choose to get vaccinated. Otherwise, those with seasonal, non-life-threatening allergies are advised to get a normal flu vaccine.

Myth: Once you get the flu once, it runs its course and you can’t get it again

The flu virus is constantly evolving into new strains, so people are susceptible throughout their lives. Even if the body creates an antibody against one strain of the virus, that antibody may be useless against the next year’s influenza virus, so repeat infections are common. high-risk groups for the flu virusOklahomans hospitalized because of the flu

Find a vaccine location near you

Protect yourself against the flu this season by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze. If tissues aren’t available, cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hands, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to decrease the spread of germs. If you do contract the flu, the CDC recommends staying home for a full 24 hours after your fever breaks without the assistance of fever-reducing medication.

Flu vaccines are available at multiple locations throughout Oklahoma City. Use this vaccine finder to show the location most convenient for you.