Influenza shots do not cause the flu.
The most common misconception about flu shots is that the vaccination makes patients sick, and that’s not true, said Jen Weadge, public nurse at the Rock County Public Health Department.
Flu season typically begins around October or November. Weadge said the vaccine takes about two weeks to start working, so now is a good time to get a flu shot.
It’s best to protect yourself from the flu before cases of the respiratory infection start popping up, Weadge said.
She said it’s too early to predict how long and how severe this year’s flu season will be.
The World Health Organization each year selects which viruses to include in flu vaccines, based on which ones are circulating at the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flu vaccines are made of three viruses, typically two Type A and one Type B virus. Vaccines with four viruses are available for additional protection, according to the CDC.
This year’s vaccine contains the same Type B virus—a kind of virus found only in humans—as last year. Both Type A viruses are different this year, according to the CDC.
Last year’s flu season was unusually long because the common flu virus changed through the season, making the vaccine less effective, Weadge said.
Everyone older than 6 months should get a flu shot. Even if the vaccine is not the best match, it can still lessen symptoms if not completely protect people from the flu, Weadge said.
People often mistake stomach viruses for the flu, she said.
Influenza is a respiratory infection. Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, body aches, headache and fatigue. Some people might vomit, but that is more common in children than adults, Weadge said.
Those suffering from nausea, diarrhea and vomiting likely have something else, she said.
The best thing to do if you’re experiencing flu symptoms is to stay home and avoid other people, Weadge said.
If symptoms worsen, Weadge recommends consulting a doctor.
Providers across the county report all confirmed cases of the flu to the health department, which follows up with patients and reports data to the state, Weadge said.
The health department this year will provide flu shots for those who are underinsured or have no insurance, she said.
Most doctor’s offices and pharmacies offer flu shots to everyone else.