SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Upper Midwest, like the rest of the nation, is deep into the annual flu season.
North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin have recorded thousands of verified influenza infections and deaths reported in South Dakota and Wisconsin so far this season.
Health officials continue to encourage that nearly everyone get a flu shot to get vaccinated against the most common strains of flu.
Forum News Service talked with Dr. Josh Doorn, a family medicine specialist and primary care provider in Sioux Falls, about the myths and truths about the flu shot.
Is it too late to get a flu shot?
"No, it’s not too late in the season," said Doorn. "If you’ve avoided the flu thus far, that’s good. But I recommend it. There’s usually a second surge of influenza.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows it's common for a flu season to include two peaks of activity, one in December and one in March.
"So even if you made it through December, you have to make it through March, and it can occur even later than that," he said.
Will the flu shot give me the flu?
The flu shot will not give you the flu, Doorn said. Some people claim the shot makes them sick, he said, but they're probably just catching something else at around the same time as they got the flu shot.
"We give the vaccine in times when there is a high number of respiratory illnesses and other illnesses going around," he said. "There is some coincidental cases where you get the flu shot and you get a different type illness, and the flu shot gets blamed a lot though it doesn’t cause the flu.”
Is the flu shot dangerous?
Those planning to get the vaccine who may be allergic to a specific component of the flu shot should consult with their physician, Doorn said. But such allergic reactions, are very rare, including for those with an egg allergy.
Does the flu shot hurt?
It might, a little. If someone gets the shot and gets a sore arm or pain around the injection site, Doorn said to consider using an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Motrin.
"The most common reaction to the flu shot is local irritation," he said.
Should I get the flu shot if I'm pregnant?
Yes, says Doorn. "Pregnancy is definitely a time where you’re not going to want to have influenza, because you want to protect that baby," he said. "If you get really sick and dehydrated, that can cause issues with baby and pregnancy, so you’ll want to prevent that.”
What if the flu shot isn't formulated to fight this year's dominant strains?
Every year, health officials make an educated guess about which flu strains will be dominant, and sometimes they guess wrong. It's too early to tell this flu season. But Doorn recommends getting the flu shot regardless for its protective qualities.
"Even in those people who get the vaccine and get influenza, they’re less likely to die or have serious medical issues after," he said. "So it’s protective even if you get the illness."
Where do I go for more information on the flu?
CDC's flu site: www.cdc.gov/flu
To quickly find a place to get a flu shot: vaccinefinder.org
For information about the flu and your children, Doorn recommends parents visit the American Academy of Pediatrics site - HealthyChildren.org.
Each state has its own web page with details on the flu season, including the most recent totals of infections, hospitalizations and deaths: