January 15, 2021

The truth about flu: 6 facts

With flu season upon us, brush up on the facts about this contagious respiratory illness and learn why getting your flu shot is essential.

If you’ve ever had the flu, you know how miserable it can be. Symptoms can include fever, body aches, sore throat, and cough, and in severe cases, people with the flu can end up in the hospital.

With COVID-19 infections surging, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself against the flu. Here are 6 important flu facts.

Flu fact 1: The flu is worse than a cold.

People often use the term "flu" to refer to a cold or other respiratory illness. But the flu, or influenza, is much worse. It’s a highly contagious viral infection.

In most cases, the flu goes away on its own. But in some cases, the flu can be serious, leading to dangerous complications such as pneumonia or dehydration. And each year, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States are hospitalized with the flu, and tens of thousands of people die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu fact 2: Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot.

Getting an annual flu shot is your best defense against the flu. This flu season, that’s especially important because catching the flu could make you more vulnerable to COVID-19. We urge everyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated. 

People at high risk of complications from the flu include children 5 and under, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic conditions. But even if you’re not at high risk, you can still spread the virus to people around you who are.

Flu fact 3: You can’t get the flu from a flu shot.

We all know people who swear they got the flu from a flu shot. But the reality is that the flu shot can't make you sick because it doesn’t contain a live virus. 

It takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to start preventing flu, so if you get sick after receiving your flu shot, chances are you were infected with the flu before getting vaccinated.

Flu fact 4: Even if you are wearing a mask to prevent COVID-19, you still need a flu shot.

Many of the good habits you’ve developed to prevent COVID-19 are also effective in preventing the flu. These include wearing a mask outside of your home, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding touching your mouth and eyes.

But a flu shot is the only thing we have that specifically targets influenza, so getting vaccinated is your best defense.

Think of it as giving yourself the best possible chance to stay healthy. When you go for a drive, you buckle your seat belt even though you plan to observe the speed limit and use your turn signal. In much the same way, getting a flu shot provides extra protection against influenza even if you are already taking precautions to prevent COVID-19.

Flu fact 5: Even if you are staying home to prevent COVID-19, you still need a flu shot.

The more you stay home and avoid interaction with people outside the home, the more you reduce the risk of being exposed to contagious diseases like COVID-19 and the flu. But some exposure to germs is inevitable.

The good news is that, while the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet widely available, the flu shot is — and it works. The flu vaccine helped prevent 4.4 million cases of the flu and 58,000 hospital visits in the United States during the 2018 to 2019 flu season, according to the CDC.

Flu fact 6: It’s safe to come in for your flu shot.

With COVID-19 cases surging, it’s normal to feel anxious about coming in for your flu shot. Rest assured that your safety is our top priority. We’ve created new options to make it safer than ever to get vaccinated. /p>

Many Kaiser Permanente facilities are offering drive-thru clinics, walk-up outdoor clinics, and drop-in indoor clinics. And through March 31, 2021, Kaiser Permanente members can get no-cost flu shots at many retail pharmacies across the United States (including Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, Safeway, Sav-on, Walgreens, and Walmart) by providing a photo identification and member ID card.

Flu shot options vary from location to location, so visit kp.org/flu to learn more.


Be a #flufighter

Have you gotten your flu shot? Let friends and family know you’re a #flufighter and encourage them to join you. Look for the #flufighter hashtag on Kaiser Permanente’s social media channels and share our posts and tweets with your own network.