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Test Your Flu IQ

closeup of a young caucasian doctor man in a white coat showing a signboard with the text flu vaccination written in it

Nobody plans to get the flu, but you can plan to stay healthy with an annual flu vaccination. Test your flu IQ with this quiz, and then don’t wait a minute longer─protect yourself and the people you care about by getting a flu shot.

True or False? The flu isn’t serious.

FALSE! Getting the flu is a grueling experience for just about everyone. Fever, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue are tough on even the most resilient bodies. But for adults over 65, the flu can introduce life-threatening complications, like pneumonia and sepsis, and worsen preexisting conditions, like heart disease, asthma, and diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and up to 70 percent of hospitalizations occur among people 65 years of age and older, making flu vaccination one of the best steps you can take to protect your health.

True or False? It’s not too late to get the flu shot in January or later.

TRUE! It’s best to get vaccinated in October so that you benefit for the full flu season. But if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, there’s no time like the present. Getting a flu shot now can offer protection for the duration of the flu season, which can go as late as May.

True or False? It’s impossible to get the flu from the flu vaccine.

TRUE! Flu vaccines contain inactivated (killed) viruses that can’t reproduce in your body. That means there’s no way for the flu vaccine to give you the flu. Wondering why you got sick the last time you got the flu shot? There are a few possible explanations:

  • The most likely cause─you caught a different kind of bug, like one of the hundreds of respiratory viruses that make their way through the community every winter.
  • It can take up to four days for symptoms of the flu to appear, so it’s possible that you were infected with the flu before you got vaccinated and just didn’t know it yet.
  • You might have been exposed to the flu soon after getting vaccinated, but before protection from the vaccine kicked in; it usually takes about two weeks for your body to fully respond to the flu shot and mount a strong immune response.
  • The flu shot doesn’t prevent all flu cases. The vaccine is designed to match the most commonly circulating flu viruses each season, and sometimes, despite best efforts, the fit isn’t perfect. Recent studies show that when there’s a good match, flu vaccination can cut the risk of flu illness by about half in the general population.

True or False? There’s an upper age limit for getting a flu shot.

FALSE! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people over six months of age get a flu vaccine every year. You never age out of needing a flu vaccine! And since the most commonly circulating flu strains can vary from one year to the next, getting a flu shot annually is the best way to protect yourself.

True or False? You can spread the flu to friends and family before you have any symptoms.

TRUE! Healthy adults can be contagious for a day before symptoms appear. That means you can unknowingly pass the flu along to friends or family, including those who may be too weak to fight it or too young to be immunized, like an older friend or an infant grandchild. It also means you can catch the flu from people around you before they even know they’re sick.

True or False? Older adults have only one choice of flu vaccine.

FALSE! Adults 65 and older can choose from a range of options. These include:

  • High-dose flu vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that produces an immune response) as the regular flu shot and may produce a better immune response.
  • The adjuvanted flu vaccine, Fluad, contains an extra ingredient that can create a stronger immune response.
  • A standard-dose trivalent (protects against three strains) or quadrivalent (protects against four strains) vaccine.

It’s normal to experience mild side effects after a flu shot, like pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle ache and malaise. You may notice these more with the high-dose and adjuvanted vaccines. But these side effects are temporary and can’t compare to the discomfort that comes with actually getting the flu. Serious side effects are extremely rare. If you have any questions about whether you should get vaccinated, talk to your clinician or learn more here.

Already got the flu shot? Chances are you’ve got a friend or family member who hasn’t. Share your flu smarts and encourage them to get vaccinated today!

Contributor Debra Berliner, MPH, consults on the immunization assessment and promotion program at Public Health─Seattle and King County.