The Truth About the Flu Shot

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Wondering whether the flu shot is safe or worthwhile? Here's the truth.

Can it give you the flu? No. Some shots contain viruses that are weakened, but they can't cause an infection. You could have some soreness at the injection site, muscle aches, or a mild fever afterward. These are just reactions your body makes to a foreign substance entering it. Serious side effects are rare, though.

Does the shot really work? Yes. Some years it's more effective than others. But it always boosts your odds of staying healthy through flu season.

Should you really get the shot every year? Yes. Different strains of the virus could be going around. Each year, the vaccine protects you from three or four strains that scientists think will be the most common. And your protection from your previous vaccine wears off over time.

Can it give my child autism? No. Numerous studies have found no link between vaccines and autism. However, there are life-threatening risks associated with the flu, like pneumonia. Getting your child a flu shot is the best way to protect them from that.

The bottom line is that the flu shot is safe for almost everyone six months old or older. Your doctor may have you skip it if you've ever had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or if you have a rare disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome.