Flu season runs approximately from October to May, so it's in full swing, with more cases being reported as the weather gets colder. Health agencies statewide are urging people to get their flu shots. One reason some people don't, according to DHEC's Dr. Theresa Foo, is an old belief that flu shots actually give people a mild case of the flu. Not true, she says.
"The flu shot does not cause the flu. There's no active virus in the flu shot. The most common reaction to getting a flu shot is a sore arm." A little swelling or redness at the site of the shot is the usual result, and that generally goes away in a day or two.
But, said Foo, some people may have a little more reaction, which may fuel the false rumor: "Some people might have some mild symptoms where they feel kind of achy, feverish or a little tired, but that is not the flu. That's just your body reacting to building up immunity from getting the shot. So it means that the vaccine is working."
University of South Carolina nursing professor Megan Cain said there are other possiblities if some folks have a flu-like reaction to a flu shot. "You could potentially have been exposed to the flu virus before you actually mounted your immune response." Or "you could have been exposed to a different virus, such as the rhino virus. It kinda leads to the common cold and may essentially make you feel as if you had the flu."
Flu shots are easy to get because they're offered in a lot of places, from large employers to pharmacies to, of course, doctors' offices. "You can pretty much find the flu vaccine anywhere in South Carolina," said Foo.
Cain believes more South Carolinians are getting flu vaccinations in recent years. She experienced a long line at the pharmacy when she went to get her own flu shot, which made her happy that people are taking steps to protect themselves.
Cain also listed a few common sense tips for people to avoid the flu until they can get a shot: stay home if you're sick, and avoid contact with anyone who is having flu symptoms like coughing, which spreads the virus through droplets in the air. Also, wash your hands frequently.
Both Cain and Foo stressed that it's never too late to get a flu shot, but the sooner the better, as the height of the flu season in the Palmetto State is generally January and February.