Every year, we get a lot of questions from students about the flu and the flu vaccine. That’s why we’ve compiled our most commonly asked questions into one blog post to help Badgers smash the flu this season.
What is the flu vaccine?
The seasonal flu vaccine is a small dose of the dead influenza virus, usually given by needle in the arm. It’s meant to cause your body to develop flu-fighting antibodies, arming you with a defense against the real deal.
Wait, so will it actually give me the flu?
Nope! This is where many nasty myths come from. The injected flu vaccines only contain the dead virus. Meaning it can’t infect you.
What about the flu mist?
The flu mist does use a live virus (it’s the only form of the vaccine that does), but it’s been engineered specifically to remove the part of the virus that makes people sick. Meaning, again, flu immunizations will not give you the flu.
So, why is this myth so popular?
Many people mistake the side effects from the shot for actual illness. In the past, side effects felt like mild flu symptoms, but now the only side effect you’ll experience may be a sore arm. The flu shot season also coincides with cold and allergy seasons, so recently vaccinated people coming down with a mild respiratory bug might confuse it with the “side effects” of their flu shot, though they’re totally unrelated!
If I got a shot last year do I really need another one this year?
Yep. Though most vaccines protect us for a longer time than one season, the flu vaccine doesn’t. This is because different strains of the flu virus dominate each season, so researchers have to develop a different strain of the flu vaccine each year. Bottom line? Last year’s flu shot won’t protect you this year.
Can antibiotics cure my flu?
No way! This is another common misconception. Antibiotics are designed to fight and kill bacterial illnesses and infections. But the flu isn’t caused by bacteria; it’s caused by a virus. Aka antibiotics won’t do anything to help you out.
Does influenza include the “stomach flu”?
The influenza virus we’re talking about here is the respiratory illness that causes fever, chills, body aches, the works. Gastrointestinal viruses called the “stomach flu” cause vomiting and/or an upset stomach and diarrhea, If you find yourself experiencing these kinds of symptoms without a fever (or any other seasonal flu symptoms), chances are you have the commonly dubbed “stomach flu,” unrelated to the seasonal virus that flu shots combat.
Ready to get your free flu shot? Registered UW-Madison students can walk in to 333 East Campus Mall, 6th Floor Green Clinic, between 9am and 4:30pm weekdays through November 14. Hate shots? We also have the FluMist nasal spray available for $5.
Find more information about flu shots on the UHS website.