Myths & Truths of Getting the Flu Shot

Myth 1: The flu isn’t a big deal

Most people who have the flu will experience symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite for 7 to 10 days. Flu symptoms can lead to work or school absences and interfere with your daily routine. However, for some people the flu can be very serious, especially for those over the age of 65, young children, or individuals with certain diseases like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. In fact, the flu causes around 12,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths each year in Canada. Since the flu vaccine helps to lower your risk of getting the flu and developing flu-related complications, it’s recommended to receive a flu shot every year.

Myth 2: The flu shot doesn’t work in older adults

For adults aged 65 and older, there is a higher chance of developing serious complications from the flu. This is because your immune system weakens with age, which can make it harder to fight off infections. Seniors are also more likely to have certain health conditions that can worsen if they catch the flu. For these reasons, it is especially important for seniors to get their flu shot every year. All approved flu shots in Canada are proven to be effective and safe for adults 65 years of age and older.

Myth 3: The flu shot gave me the flu last time

The flu shot cannot cause the flu. There are 3 types of flu shots: inactivated, attenuated, and recombinant. Inactivated vaccines contain dead influenza viruses that are unable to make you sick. The nasal spray vaccine contains flu viruses that are attenuated (weakened) to the point that they cannot give you the flu, but your body can still build up protection against it. Recombinant flu vaccines are synthetically made and do not contain the flu virus. They also cannot give you the flu.

Most people will not experience side effects from their flu shot. However, some experience soreness where the vaccine was given, or other mild symptoms like fever, headache, muscle aches, or tiredness that usually last for 1 to 2 days. These are possible side effects following a flu shot, which are similar to common flu symptoms, but they do not mean that you have the flu.

Myth 4: My child really doesn’t like injections, so they can’t get one.

Injections can be stressful for children and parents alike. However, there are ways you can help reduce your child’s worries about their flu shot. Distracting them with their favourite toy, a joke, or a mobile device can make the flu shot less stressful. Holding them in a comfortable position can encourage your child to stay calm.

Numbing creams, patches, and gels are also available over the counter and can help reduce the pain from the flu shot; be sure to discuss these with your child’s health care team before using them.

Myth 5: It’s not safe to get a flu shot due to the COVID-19 situation.

The flu shot can reduce your chances of being infected with the flu. While you may be concerned about catching COVID-19, getting the flu may also lead to complications. It’s also safe for individuals 5 years of age and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, or any time before or after their flu shot.