Posted by Steve Lettau on Sep 13, 2018

Dr. Christopher Eernisse (Cedarburg News Graphic 9/11/2018)

Can I catch the flu from the flu vaccine? The flu shot cannot give you the flu. People who report a runny nose or cough symptoms after receiving the flu vaccine are likely experiencing symptoms of a common cold, with which they were infected before they received the flu vaccine.

Isn’t the flu just a really bad cold? No. Influenza may cause cold symptoms, such as sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness and cough. However, more than 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of flu complications, making this virus much more serious than a bad cold.

Is the flu shot just for the elderly and the sick? Even if you aren’t considered “high risk,” a flu shot can protect you, your family, friends and co-workers during the flu season. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu, including those who are most vulnerable. This includes the elderly, very young children, pregnant women and those with serious health conditions.

Does a person really need a flu vaccine every year? Yes. The vaccine is reformulated every year. The CDC identifies which influenza virus strains are expected to be the most prevalent for the upcoming year, so this year’s vaccine can be made to specifically protect against those strains. As a result, you need to protect yourself by getting the flu vaccine every year.

I’ve heard the flu shot isn’t 100-percent effective at preventing the flu. Why should I still get one? It’s true that a small percentage of people may still get the flu even after receiving a vaccination. However, if you do get the flu after being vaccinated, you are likely to feel less sick than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

Are there people who should not get the flu shot? Yes. If you are severely allergic to eggs (egg proteins are used in making flu vaccines) or have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past, you might not be able to get a flu shot or may need to have the shot administered under special supervision. Speak with your primary care provider about your options for getting a flu shot.

Can you spread the flu virus to someone before symptoms appear? Yes. The flu virus can spread quickly, and those infected can infect others before symptoms develop. Research shows that between 20 to 30 percent of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms.

In addition to getting the flu vaccine, what else can people do to protect themselves? You can prevent the spread of the flu virus by staying home when you are sick, washing your hands frequently and keeping your workspaces clean.

Will taking antibiotics help with the flu? Antibiotics work well against bacteria, but they aren’t effective for a viral infection like the flu.

If you choose not to be vaccinated and do catch the flu, your loved ones are at risk of catching the virus from you. Please take the necessary steps to keep everyone healthy during this upcoming flu season.

Dr. Christopher Eernisse is a family medicine physician at the Aurora Health Center in Port Washington