The flu shot: What you need to know

As flu season approaches, you may be wondering whether or not you and your children should get flu shots. There are many myths about the flu shot that may have you concerned. We're here to tell you the facts. Plain and simple. Here are your questions answered by the experts.
1. Will the flu shot give me the flu? No. According to vaccine expert Dr. Gregory Poland in an article for Mayo Clinic, "It's impossible for [the flu shot] the "cause" flu." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further explain, the flu vaccine works by causing antibodies that protect against the flu virus (not the virus itself) to develop in the body.
2. But haven't people died from the flu shot? Rarely. Health Impact News lists just 42 claims filed in 2013 with the Department of Justice for injury or death due to flu vaccine. However, nearly 60 per cent of those who filed claims were afflicted with a severe paralytic disorder known as Gullian-Barré Syndrome, and are part of the small population which the CDC does not recommended get a flu shot. For the overwhelming majority of the population, the flu shot is safe.
3. So who should get the flu shot? The CDC recommends all persons over the age 6 months get a flu shot. The only people who should avoid the flu shot are infants under 6 months, individuals with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and people with life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine, which includes gelatin and antibiotics. Otherwise, all people over the age of 6 months are recommended to get a flu shot.
6. Even pregnant women? Yes! Dr. Poland explains, "Today's flu vaccines are safe for expectant mothers and highly recommended." He goes on to discuss a recent study which demonstrated higher rates of death among pregnant women who were not vaccinated. The CDC echoes Dr. Poland's recommendation that pregnant women be vaccinated, citing a study which found babies whose mothers received flu shots when expecting where protected from flu as developing fetuses, as well as months after birth.
7. But what about children? Does flu shot cause autism? No way. The myth dates to 1998, when a British gastroenterologist published a study of 12 children linking the vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), to gastrointestinal problems he believed led to autism. Parents Magazine explains the 18 year-old study had nothing to do with the flu vaccine. Further, at least seven large-scale studies (much larger than 12 test subjects) published in major medical journals have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The bottom line is that no medical research supports the claim that vaccines cause autism. Research reported by the CDC does however, show that from 2010-2012, flu shots in children reduced pediatric intensive care unit admission for flu by an astounding 74 per cent.
8. Okay. But is the flu actually that serious? Yes. "No one should confused influenza with a 'minor illness,'" stresses Dr. Poland. "In an average year, up to 40,000 Americans die from influenza and its complications, and over 250,000 are hospitalized."
9. And what about side effects of the flu shot? Not bad. Often, patients suffer no side-effects. When side-effects do occur, they can include soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of injection as well as a low-grade fever and aches. However, the CDC stresses, "These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of bad case of flu."
10. Is there an optimal time to get a flu shot? Kind of. The CDC explains, in the United States, flu season runs from October until May. Because the vaccine takes up to two weeks to take full effect, it is best to be vaccinated as soon as possible. However, as Dr. Poland says, "It's never too late to get a flu vaccine."
11. If I've had the flu shot before, I don't need it again this year, right? Not true! The CDC and NHS Choices both explain that because the strain of influenza changes every year, medical researchers and scientists work hard to formulate a new flu virus every year that specifically tackles the strains of flu virus predicted to circulate that particular year.
Now that you know the facts, you can make an informed decision. Spread the word by SHARING this article on social media. does not give medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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