While it is a medical myth that the flu shot causes the flu, it is possible to become ill after being vaccinated. But can you still actually get the flu?
“Oftentimes we get ‘the flu’ after being vaccinated because we get a virus that acts like the flu but is actually the common cold, or we get a variation that is not covered in the current vaccine,” explains Dr. Amber Ortega, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “The good news is that this year’s vaccine is extremely effective in preventing infections from the flu; and even if you do get sick with influenza after receiving the vaccine, the symptoms will be significantly less severe and will improve faster than they would had you not been vaccinated.”
According to Dr. Ortega, your current health has a lot to do with the way your body responds to the vaccine.
“If you are generally healthy, and are practicing good health habits, the vaccine will strongly enhance your ability to fight the flu virus,” she says. “If you already have serious medical problems, or belong to one of the high-risk groups listed below, the vaccine is critically important to giving your body the best chance to fight.”
Based on information provided by the CDC, the following individuals are more at risk for developing the flu than others:
- Children younger than 5 — especially children younger than 2
- Adults 65 years or older
- Pregnant women
- Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities
- Individuals with American Indian or Alaskan Native heritage
“This year, the most common strain of the flu is influenza A, or H1N1, which can cause severe illness especially in younger children and people 65 years or older,” explains Dr. Ortega. “Taking steps, like regularly washing hands, is vital to stop the spread of the disease.”
You can stop the spread of flu by:
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
- Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water
- Staying home from work or school when feeling sick
- Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing