Libby Richards

Libby Richards, associate professor of nursing at Purdue University. Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE — One of the most common reasons some people don’t get an annual flu shot is the belief the vaccine can actually give a person the flu.

That is a common myth that can lead to the flu spreading, says a nursing researcher.

“By containing an inactive virus, the flu vaccine gives your body a sneak peek, so if you are exposed to the flu virus after vaccination your immune system will be able to fight it off much easier,” says Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing who specializes in public health in Purdue University’s School of Nursing.

“People may feel under the weather after receiving the flu shot due to signs of the body creating an immune response, which is actually a good thing,” Richards says. “Common side effects from flu shots are muscle soreness at the injection site. Some people may also develop a low-grade fever, headache or overall muscle aches. These side effects can be mistaken for the flu, but in reality, are just a body’s normal response to vaccination.”

Traditional flu vaccines protect against three flu viruses: influenza A (H1N1) virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines that protect against four flu viruses, frequently called “quadrivalent” vaccines. These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.

Although U.S. flu activity is currently low, some areas are seeing flu activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people ages 6 and above should get their flu vaccination.

Richards said it is common for most people to get a flu shot in October, but they can also do so later. Flu season typically peaks from December through February but can remain active well into May.