Here are just some of the facts behind some of the myths that surround flu jabs:
- Having flu is just like having a heavy cold:
A bad bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and sometimes severely. They include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, as well as a cough and sore throat. So, you are likely to spend two or three days in bed. If you get complications caused by flu, you could become seriously ill and have to go to hospital.
- Having the flu jab gives you flu:
No, it does not. The influenza vaccine contains inactivated flu viruses, so it cannot give you flu. There are some fairly common but mild side effects. Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, and some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. Other reactions are very rare.
- Flu can be treated with antibiotics:
No, it cannot. Viruses cause flu and antibiotics only work against bacteria. You may be prescribed antiviral medicines to treat your flu. Antivirals do not cure flu but they can make you less infectious to others and can reduce the length of time that you may be ill. To be effective, antivirals have to be given within a day or two of your symptoms appearing.
A bacterial infection may occur as a result of having the flu, in which case you may be given antibiotics. Find out more about why antibiotics will not work against flu.
- Once you have had a flu jab, you are protected for life:
No, you are not. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, so you need a vaccination each year that matches the new viruses. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of the flu season that year.
- Children cannot have the flu jab:
Children over the age of six months who are most ‘at risk’ of serious illness if they catch flu are eligible for the flu jab on the NHS and it is important that they receive the vaccine. These are children with a pre-existing illness such as a respiratory or neurological condition or children who are having treatment such as chemotherapy.