10 Myths About The Flu

Flu season is nearly upon us. While we hope you’ve received your flu shot, we know it’s still possible to contract the virus this season. S. Matthew Hockett, MD, helps us sort out flu fact from fiction.

Myth #1 – “You don’t need to get a flu shot every year.”

It is important to get a flu vaccine every year for a couple of reasons. One, our immunity to influenza tends to decline over time, so the vaccine serves as a booster. Two, the flu virus mutates frequently, so the vaccine is updated every year to keep up with these changes.

Myth #2 -“You can catch the flu going out in cold weather without a coat, with wet hair, or by sitting near a drafty window.”

Many folks still believe that exposure to wet, cold, or drafty weather can cause the flu or other illnesses. This is entirely untrue. The reason people get sick more often in the winter is because people (especially students) are grouped together in enclosed buildings, allowing for illnesses to spread easily between them.

Myth #3 -“Feed a cold, starve a fever.”

There is no basis to this whatsoever. I would advise folks to stay well hydrated when sick, because a fever can increase the loss of water. But the rest is simply an old folk tale.

 Myth #4 –“Chicken soup will speed your recovery from the flu.”

Unfortunately, (as a lover of chicken soup), this just isn’t true. Soup and other warm beverages can certainly help loosen mucous and soothe a sore throat. And hydration when sick is important. But there is no evidence that this or other home remedies lessens recovery time from the flu.

Myth #5 -“If you have a high fever with the flu that lasts more than a day or two, antibiotics may be necessary.”

Tamiflu®, for example, if started within 48 hours of exposure or symptom onset, can help shorten and lessen the course and severity of influenza. But what we commonly think of as antibiotics have no role whatsoever in the treatment of the flu. Quite simply, they do nothing. If you do contract the flu you can expect fairly high fevers for 3-7 days. That is what the flu does.

Myth #6 – “You can catch the flu from the vaccine.”

No, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. The flu shot contains either inactivated virus or just some DNA fragments from the virus, neither of which can cause the flu. The nasal spray does contain live virus, but the germs have been inactivated so they do not cause the illness. There can be symptoms associated with any vaccine, including mild fevers or aches – this is due to your body mounting an immune response as it should. Folks that think they have gotten sick from a shot in the past more than likely had a different, unrelated illness that was going to show up whether they had the flu shot or not.

Myth #7 – “Healthy people don’t need to get vaccinated.”

Everyone who is able to should get a flu vaccination. Though it is true that people who are ill with chronic disease can have more serious symptoms and worse outcomes, even healthy people can die from the flu. As many as 50,000 people die, and many times more than that are hospitalized, from the flu each year in the US, and many of these were perfectly healthy to begin with. It is a very serious illness.

Myth #8 -“Getting the flu vaccine is all you need to do to protect yourself from the flu.”

Flu vaccines are one way to help protect against contracting the flu. It is also important to continue basic precautions, such as hand washing or sanitizing, especially after sneezing or blowing your nose. Remind children not to share drinks. And if people stayed home when sick it would reduce exposure to others. This means actually staying at home, not just staying away from work – avoid going to stores, movie theaters, etc.

Myth #9 -“The flu is just a bad cold.”

Influenza is a very serious, and potentially fatal, illness. At the very least you can expect high fevers, body aches, nasal congestion, and cough. It may involve headache, sore throat, nausea, and a loss of appetite. Expect the symptoms to last 5-10 days. Most folks describe it as the “worst illness of my life.”

 Myth #10 –“You can’t spread the flu if you’re feeling well.”

Flu symptoms start 1-4 days after exposure, and, unfortunately, can be spread during this time. So people are contagious even before they know they are sick. That is why hygiene precautions, such as hand washing, are so important in reducing the spread of the flu.

We make it easy for you with same-day appointments, extended hours, and 24/7 scheduling. Schedule an appointment at Fairview Clinics – Bass Lake: 763-268-0400  or visit: https://www.fairview.org/Locations/Fairview-Clinics-Bass-Lake

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