Fever, cough, chills, sore throat, headache… is it the flu? Each year, influenza, or flu, sends thousands of Americans to the hospital. This contagious respiratory infection affects the entire body and is usually spread when a person coughs or sneezes. The single most effective thing you can do to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated every year. There are misconceptions about the flu shot that cause people to skip this important preventative measure. Here's the fact and fiction about the flu vaccine.

Myth: Influenza is kind of like the common cold … it's not a big deal.
Fact: Influenza, commonly called the "flu," is a severe respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications or even death.

Myth: The flu shot can give me influenza.
Fact: It is impossible for the flu shot to give you influenza because it does not contain the live virus. Some people might experience mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, and rarely a headache or low-grade fever.

Myth: I am healthy and never get the flu, so I don't need to get the flu shot.
Fact: Even healthy people can get influenza and it can be serious. Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated each year as the circulating strains of the virus change each year.

Myth: The flu shot does not keep people from getting influenza.
Fact: The flu shot doesn't guarantee you won't get influenza, but it significantly reduces your risk. There are multiple types of flu viruses circulating and they change from year to year. The flu shot protects you from several of the most common types of influenza, and is very effective.

Learn more about preventing the flu »

Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed March 15, 2018.

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