Sometimes people ask if a flu shot can cause the flu, or if it protects against the “stomach flu.”
The answer, in both cases, is no.
“There’s a common misconception that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine,” she said. “You can’t. It’s a dead virus. You may get symptoms from the vaccine stimulating the immune system – achiness, fatigue or a low-grade fever – but not the flu.”
As for “stomach flu,” the influenza virus does not cause gastrointestinal illness. Influenza virus attacks the respiratory system – not the intestines.
Flu shot season runs from September to April. “But the sooner you get it, the better,” Dayne said.
The vaccine is recommended for children 6 months and older. Children up to age 9 who are being vaccinated for the first time need 2 shots, 1 month apart.
The vaccine is formulated each year to match flu viruses expected to be circulating. The vaccine does not always prevent flu, but it cut the risk by almost half last year.
A 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of pediatric intensive care admissions by 74 percent during the 2010-2012 flu seasons.
“The most important thing, contrary to what many think, is that people die from flu every single year,” Dayne said. “Nationwide, tens of thousands of people die. Also, several hundred thousand are admitted to the hospital.”
For children and others who get the flu, doctors recommend the antiviral medication oseltamivir within 48 hours of symptoms. The medication can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.