Staying well over the holidays.

Flu facts vs. fiction — plus practical germ-fighting tips.

’Tis the holiday season, and unfortunately cold and flu season too. So how do you stay well and not miss out on your favorite festivities? Handwashing — yes, for sure!

Here’s another vital move: get an annual flu shot. It’s the single best way to protect against the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So why is it that people sometimes skip getting vaccinated?

It might come down to misinformation. Here are 6 common myths about the flu and what’s the real deal, with facts from CDC.

Myth: If I didn’t get vaccinated earlier, it’s not worth doing now.

The facts: It’s best to get a flu shot as soon as vaccines are available. But it’s not too late in November or even later in the year. Flu season generally peaks between December and March — and can last as late as May.

Myth: Only older adults really need flu shots.

The facts: A flu vaccine is recommended for almost everyone 6 months and older. Depending on your age, different types of vaccines may be available to you. Ask your doctor which type is right for you.*

Myth: It’s just the flu — no big deal.

The facts: The seasonal flu, or influenza, can be a misery maker, causing high fever, chills, body aches and more. Every year, many people become severely ill with complications of the flu — and thousands die.

Older adults, children, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions — such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes — are most vulnerable. But anyone who gets the flu is at risk of serious illness.

Myth: It’s OK to skip the vaccine if I got one last year.

The facts: You need a new vaccine every year to stay protected. And the most common viruses can change from year to year, so the vaccines change too.

Myth: Flu shots give you the flu.

The facts: The vaccines are made with inactivated viruses or no flu viruses at all. So they can’t give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are redness and tenderness where the shot was given.

Myth No. 6: I got a flu shot once and still got the flu — so it doesn’t really work.

The facts: Each year, the vaccine protects against the viruses experts think will be most common that year. So it’s still possible to get a different strain — or a similar illness, such as a cold — even if you got vaccinated.

Another possibility: You may have been exposed to the virus before your protection took effect. The bottom line: No vaccine is 100 percent perfect. But your chances of avoiding the flu are much better if you get the vaccine.


What to do next

Find a flu shot near you. Be sure to bring your health plan ID card with you. 

5 ways to fight germs.

  1. Wash your hands regularly.
  2. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.
  3. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your upper sleeve — not your hands.
  4. Use a disinfectant to wash hard surfaces that get touched a lot. Think doorknobs, phones, remote controls and countertops.
  5. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible.

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