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Busting the most common myths about flu and the flu vaccine

The most effective way to protect yourself from flu every year is to have the flu jab but, be that as it may, many people remain reluctant to roll up their sleeves.

Many decline the vaccination because they believe it will give them flu, or believe some of the other myths about flu which do the rounds year after year.

With that in mind, NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has put together this article to separate flu fact from flu fiction to help you stay well this winter.

Myth one: The flu vaccine will give me flu

Let’s start with the most common misconception, that you’ll get the flu when you have the seasonal flu vaccine.

This is not true. The adult flu vaccine contains inactivated flu viruses, which means the vaccine can’t give you flu.

You might have a sore arm after having the flu jab, while some people experience a slight temperature and aching muscles for a few days afterwards. Other reactions can occur, but only in rare cases.

WATCH Stay Well This Winter: The flu vaccine video

Myth two: I had my flu vaccine last year so I’m already protected

You need to have a flu jab every year, as the antibodies that protect you from flu decline over time, and flu strains can also change from year to year.

Also, it’s worth remembering that it may take 10 to 14 days for your immunity to build up fully after you have had the flu vaccine.

Myth three: I can’t have the flu vaccine because I’m pregnant

On the contrary, it is important to have the flu jab if you’re pregnant because it will protect you and your baby. The vaccine is safe to have at any stage of pregnancy.

Pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, if they get flu.
It could also cause your baby to be born prematurely or underweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death.

WATCH Having the flu jab during pregnancy video

Myth four: I’ve had flu recently so I don’t need to be vaccinated

You need to have a flu jab even if you’ve already had flu this winter.

Flu is caused by several viruses and the immunity your body has naturally developed after having flu will only protect against one of these strains.

Also, what you were laid low by might not necessarily have been flu.

Myth five: Flu is just like having a heavy cold

While colds and flu share some similar symptoms (eg: blocked nose, sore throat, high temperature), make no mistake: a bad bout of flu is much worse than a cold.

Colds cause more nasal problems than flu, while fever, fatigue and muscle aches are more likely and more severe with flu. If you get complications caused by flu, you could become seriously ill and have to go to hospital.

Whereas cold symptoms normally develop over one or two days, flu symptoms come on suddenly and sometimes severely. 

Cold sufferers usually begin to feel better after a couple of days while it takes around a week to recover from flu, although sufferers might feel tired for much longer.

Myth six: Flu can be treated with antibiotics

Antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial infections, but aren't effective in combatting viral infections like the flu. That said, a bacterial infection may occur as a result of having the flu, in which case you may be given antibiotics.

You can take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower your temperature and relieve aches.

Myth seven: Vitamin C can protect against flu

While vitamin C helps to keep cells healthy and maintain healthy skin and bones, there’s no evidence to suggest it can protect against flu.

Myth eight: It’s too late to have the flu jab this year

It’s best to have the flu vaccination as soon as it’s available (normally October or November) but you can have it later in the winter. The adage ‘better late than never’ rings true here, but it’s better to be vaccinated as early as possible.

Myth nine: Children can’t have the flu vaccination

Flu can be very unpleasant for children but the good news is that they can have the flu vaccine.

The nasal spray vaccine is free for children aged two or three, as well as children in reception class and years one to four. Children aged two to 17 with long-term health conditions are also eligible.

Myth 10: The flu vaccine won’t protect me against swine flu

This year’s flu vaccine protects against H1N1 swine flu virus, as well as two other flu viruses. It has been designed to protect against swine flu because public health experts expect it to be circulating this year.

A GP’s view: Dr Andrew Phillips, a local GP and joint medical director at the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The flu vaccine is free for pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, young children and people with certain long-term health conditions. If you’re eligible but haven’t already had your free flu jab, get it as soon as possible.

“It only takes a few minutes to be vaccinated and is relatively painless. It’s free because you need it. Flu is a highly contagious infection that anyone can catch if they aren't protected, and it can be a really serious illness for some people.”

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