By Marybeth Bock

I know what you’re probably thinking when you read that title.

I’ve never gotten the flu – why should I get the shot this year?

Can’t getting a flu shot give you the flu?

It hurts! No thanks.

First let’s talk about a few myths surrounding the flu shot. Despite what you may have heard from a friend or a family member, you cannot get the flu from the vaccination. A flu vaccine either contains killed flu virus, or no virus at all, so if someone were to get sick right afterwards, it’s not from the flu – or they had already been infected before the shot.

Sometimes, people do experience mild side effects after getting the shot. Common ones are soreness, swelling, muscle aches and a low-grade fever, but these tend to go away on their own within a few days. (If you have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, you should talk to a doctor before getting the vaccine.)

The important thing to remember is that flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use and hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu shots over the past 50 years.

Kids, especially ones who go to school, are more likely to catch the flu, and it’s way more serious than catching a common cold. A typical flu illness can mean missing a week or more of school, and it means you can pass along the virus to family members. If you’re vaccinated, it lessens the risk of you potentially infecting others who are more susceptible, like your grandparents, or young children you may babysit or be around at family events.

If you have any chronic health condition like asthma or diabetes, it’s particularly important for you to get a flu shot. And while the flu vaccine is never a 100% guarantee you will not get the flu, if you do – it will most likely be a much milder illness and you’ll recover faster.

The best time to get the flu shot is before the end of October, but as long as the virus is around, typically through January of each year, it’s helpful to get vaccinated.

The flu vaccine is available in many places, including doctor’s offices or clinics, local health departments, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, and grocery stores. Ask for a numbing cream beforehand if you are anxious about any pain.