Skip to main content

Eight Common Flu Myths Debunked

Nurse giving a woman a flu shot
The viruses in a flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.

Published on December 20, 2022

The flu is a contagious disease, but it’s not the only thing that can spread. Sometimes, rumors or misinformation about the flu or flu vaccines also “go viral.”

Two Phelps Health primary care providers – Jordan Priest, DNP, FNP-BC, and Rachel Jang, FNP-C, who both specialize in family medicine, debunk eight common myths about the flu and flu vaccine.

Myth: The flu vaccine causes the flu or makes people sick.

Rachel Jang FNP-C
Rachel Jang, FNP-C

Truth: The viruses in a flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that people may experience from flu shots include soreness, redness and/or swelling where the shot was given.

Myth: I’m healthy. I don’t need a flu shot.

Truth: If you’re a healthy adult, you might think you’re way down on the list of people who need a flu shot. However, the seasonal flu vaccine not only helps you from catching the flu, it helps you from spreading the disease.

The flu vaccine is not a guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but a flu shot greatly improves your chances of not getting the disease. If you don’t get the flu, then you’re also reducing the chance that you’ll infect someone else with the flu.

Jordan Priest DNP FNP-BC
Jordan Priest,

Getting the flu shot shows your consideration for the people around you who are more vulnerable to the flu, such as infants, seniors and people of all ages with chronic illnesses.

Myth: The flu vaccine doesn’t work.

Truth: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts studies each year to determine how well the flu vaccine protects against flu. Effectiveness can vary, with recent studies showing that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during flu season.

Remember, the flu vaccine becomes effective about 2 weeks after you receive the shot.

Myth: You don’t need a flu shot every year.

Truth: The flu vaccine formula is based on what experts believe are the strains most likely to cause illness during each flu season. Therefore, getting a flu shot every year is important as the vaccine contains the strains that are believed to cause illness that specific season.

Myth: I’m pregnant, so I can’t get the flu shot.

Truth: Pregnant women should get a flu shot, but not the live attenuated vaccine (LAIV) or nasal spray version of the flu shot. Evidence shows that flu shots can be safely given to women during pregnancy.

After giving birth, women, even if they are breastfeeding, can receive either type of vaccine.

Myth: The flu is just a bad cold.

Truth: In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are typically more intense and begin more suddenly.

People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose than people who have the flu.

Myth: If I get the flu, I can just take antibiotics.

Truth: Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. However, the flu is a virus. Antiviral medications can be taken within 48 hours of symptoms appearing and may decrease the duration of the flu by 1 to 2 days.

Myth: The flu shot by itself will protect me from the flu.

Truth: While getting a yearly flu shot may prevent you from getting the flu, you also should remember these tips to avoid the spread of germs:

  • Stay away from those who are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with viruses.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Ask Your Doctor

Seasonal flu disease usually peaks between December and March most years, but the disease can occur as late as May. If you have questions about the flu, talk to your primary care provider. With MyChart, you can send messages to your doctor.

Found in: Care Flu Health Influenza