You cannot catch the flu from the flu vaccine.
The most common type of flu vaccine is the inactivated vaccine that is made from parts of killed flu viruses. It cannot give you the flu. The live viral flu vaccine is made from an attenuated, or severely weakened, strain of the flu that was selected to only undergo a few duplications before dying. If a person gets sick after the flu shot, most likely they would have gotten sick anyway or sometimes folks can experience side effects from the flu shot that tells them their immune system is working. These side effects are generally limited to soreness at the site of injection, short-lived malaise and achiness.
Who should get vaccinated?
The Center's for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older by the end of October, if possible. CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for "universal" flu vaccination in the U.S. to expand protection against the flu to more people. While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications. The vaccine is strongly recommended for those who are elderly, pregnant, or have a chronic illness.
Getting a flu vaccine protects more than just yourself.
Not only will the vaccine help protect you, but it will also help protect those around you who can have severe complications if they catch the flu from you. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.
Getting the flu vaccine does not completely prevent you from getting the flu.
Flu vaccines are made against the flu strains predicted to be the most prevalent or most problematic strain to circulate for the upcoming season. There are other flu strains that may also circulate at the same time that may not be covered by the vaccine. Maintaining good hand hygiene, avoiding contact with folks who have respiratory illnesses, and encouraging those around you to wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes can help prevent illness.
Can I get the flu vaccination and a COVID vaccination at the same time?
Yes, there is no contraindication to receiving both vaccines at the same time.
- Get vaccinated: The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine
- Wash your hands: Use warm water and soap to wash your hands when they are visibly dirty or use hand sanitizer (available in many buildings on campus)
- Cough/Sneeze into your sleeve or crook of your elbow
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Wear a mask
- Stay home if you are sick
People who have the flu often have a sudden onset of some or all of these symptoms:
- fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
- fatigue (very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
How flu spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
Cold weather does not cause the flu.
Flu is seasonal in non-tropical areas because during cold weather, we tend to spend more time indoors with other people. It is the same reason why other respiratory illnesses are more prevalent during cold seasons. Flu is caused by a virus that can be more efficiently spread through coughing and sneezing during the winter months because there are more folks (and therefore germs) indoors.
The "stomach flu" is not the same as the seasonal flu.
Stomach flu is an entirely different viral infection, generally caused by a Norovirus. True influenza infections rarely cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea in the college-aged population. Having had a bout of stomach flu does not make you immune to influenza.
Antibiotics do not help treat the flu virus.
Most antibiotics are helpful to fight bacterial infections. Because the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not helpful. There are anti-flu medications that are generally most effective if taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms, however; most people with early flu symptoms do not seek health care until their flu symptoms are advanced and anti-flu medications are no longer effective. If you are able to take anti-flu medications, they do not prevent the flu, only lessen the amount of time you are sick by one to two days. It is much better to prevent the flu with a vaccine.
Anti-flu medications are available through a visit at Wardenburg and you can schedule an appointment online. Following the visit, students are also able to pick up these medications at The Apothecary on campus.
For more information about the flu from the CDC click here.