Why You Need a Flu Shot

Dr. Margaret Hennessy explains why it's so important to get a flu shot every year and dispels some of the most common myths surrounding it.

By Margaret Hennessy, MD, pediatrician with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group in Racine.

The flu shot has been mystified over the years as something so special and so difficult to handle that many Americans just refuse to get it every year. The flu shot – which prevents influenza – is not any different than any other shot that you may get. The side effects are the same as any other shot.

Here are some other things that you need to know about influenza (aka the flu) and the vaccination that prevents it:

  • Influenza is a bad disease. For some, it may be a bad cold, but for others the flu is just plain deadly. In fact, over 36,000 Americans die every year because of influenza. That is more than almost any other disease that we can prevent with vaccine. In addition, over 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu every year and a large portion of those patients are babies.
  • Flu is not vomiting and diarrhea. Many people think of the “flu” as a stomach virus, but actually that is not really true. The flu is mostly a respiratory illness that causes cough, headaches, scratchy throat, fevers and chills, muscle aches, and malaise (an overall feeling of yuckiness).  Sometimes young children also have vomiting and diarrhea with all of this but not instead of all this. Flu can also lead to sepsis (infection in the blood) and pneumonia.
  • You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. The flu shot is no different than any other vaccine out there. There is no chance for you to get influenza from the shot. No one seems to worry about getting “tetanus disease” from a tetanus shot, so why would you think that flu vaccine can get you sick? 

    There was a study in the Twin Cities a few years ago about side effects of the flu shot. They took over 400 healthy, working adults and gave them a flu shot. Then, they took another 400 healthy, working adults and gave them a placebo (i.e. no medicine in it) shot and called both groups back to check on side effects. The rates of fever, muscle aches, malaise and sick days after the flu vaccine were the same in both groups. Moderate pain at the injection site was also the same. The only thing that was more significant in the flu shot group compared with the placebo group was “severe pain." This was seen in 3.4% of flu shot recipients vs. 1% of placebo shot recipients. 
  • You can actually be sick with influenza and make others sick and not even know it. Healthy adults tend to do better if they contract the flu virus.  However, when you get the flu, you are contagious with influenza 1-2 days before you even feel sick or show signs of sickness. So, you could be spreading the illness before you even know that you have it.  You may have mild symptoms and not realize that you are suffering from influenza and spread it to young children, elderly persons, pregnant women and persons who have serious chronic illnesses. These are among those with the highest risk of developing complications from the flu and may not develop enough protection from their own flu shot. So, they rely on healthy people to protect them.


Bottom line: Getting a flu shot is the right thing to do. We all have plenty of flu vaccine. There is no reason to wait. And if you don’t have insurance, you can visit the health departments or one of our community flu clinics to get your flu shot, too.


Wheaton Franciscan Home Health is offering community flu shot clinics througout Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine counties through the end of October.Find one near you.

Learn more about the flu by visiting our website.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) October 18, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Why yes and you are welcome. Wouldn't want you to get the flu and not make it to the voting booth.
Team Christine October 18, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Nutari IS RIGHT.PROOF our bodies hold defense mechanisms to fight. Let ThyFood BeThyMedicine&ThyMedicineBeThyFood.Hippocrates...that CatMAYhaveKnownSomething.
Team Christine October 18, 2012 at 02:30 AM
WeHaveNEVERgotOne~NEVERsick. UnlikeALL that get these poisons injected in masses....Genocide mean anything?
Craig October 18, 2012 at 02:38 AM
By all means possible, PLEASE go get innoculated!
PennySmith5 November 01, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Wow!! That 36,000 number provided by CDC was respitory issue-not confirmed to be flu. The flu shot doesn't CAUSE flu, it has your body reeling from the onslaught to your immune system, and while it is distracted by that, you get a nasty cold, or other strain of flu while compromised... Over 350 strains of flu, and the shot protects you from 3-based on the information from the year before... And there ARE nasty preservatives in flu shots, that given yearly can cause a whole new set of problems. Scientists are working on a universal vaccine that works in a DIFFERENT part of the virus unlikely to change like the current mechanism that targets the ever-changing protein... It is a billion dollar industry. Wake up people. There are MUCH better ways. Strengthen your immune system, increases your chances your body will ward of the virus. Period.


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