NORFOLK-The sniffles, the sneezing, the runny nose that won't stop. They signal the arrival of flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone from age 6 months and up should get a flu shot. Yet, most Americans don't get one. Why?
Many people think the additives in flu shots are dangerous. Dr. Mehmet Oz says there's no reason for concern.
"If you're worried about that, and autism is a recent given, I completely understand that. You can have your reservations. You can get shots that are additive free," he says.
Thimerosal is and was a major concern as a trigger for autism, but studies don't support it.
"They pretty much said there is not any association they could find by a thorough review of the literature available and there wasn't a connection, says EVMS's flu expert Dr. Dana Bradshaw, who is studying why people don't get the flu shot.
For those who decide to get the flu vaccine, you're ready to roll up your sleeve for a shot. After all, the shot is more effective than the flu mist, right? Not necessarily.
"In elementary school children, the mist is much more effective in boosting their antibody response," Dr. Bradshaw states.
There is a catch. If you live with a child two years old or younger, you can't get the flu mist since it contains the live virus.
Now what about the stomach flu? Myth! There's no such thing as the stomach flu.
"Influenza is a respiratory virus. It can predispose the lungs to getting pneumonia," explains Dr. Bradshaw.
What most people consider stomach flu is actually a gastrointestinal illness that can be caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses.
The number one reason people won't get a flu shot? Either they or someone they know got the flu after getting the flu shot. Dr. Oz says it can't happen.
"I can assure you you can't get it from the flu vaccine because there is no live virus in the vaccine," he stresses.
Dr. Bradshaw agrees that flu shot myth is a major bust. All the flu shots are basically inactivated, which means its actually killed virus or virus particles.
But what if you did get sick after getting a flu shot? Getting the flu vaccine doesn't mean you won't get sick, but don't mistake flu-like symptoms for the flu. There are a lot of things that cause sneezing, coughing and stuffy heads.
Should you get a flu shot if you've just been sick with the flu? It's a fact that you should avoid getting a flu shot if you've just had a fever. Dr. Oz says there is an exception to that.
"If you're immune-suppressed because you're getting chemotherapy, because you have an illness, that's also a reason to get the flu shot.
Dr. Oz says the flu shot can actually help prevent heart attack. If you've had a heart attack or heart disease, definitely get a flu vaccination.
"It does prevent people at risk of heart disease, especially the older folks in America, from getting a heart attack, which is the number one reason that you die from the flu," he notes.
One last reason for not getting the flu shot - that you never get the flu. The doctors say you've been lucky, but you should get vaccinated before your luck runs out. And getting the shot helps those around you, too, by breaking the passage of the virus.
The bottom line, the doctors say, the health risks from getting the flu are much greater than those associated with getting the flu shot.