10 Common Flu Myths

By:    Published: January 23, 2013

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Each year, thousands and thousands of Americans come down with the flu. For most people, the flu is one of the most unpleasant experiences of their lives, but overall not too harmful. However, it can also be very dangerous for others who have certain risk factors. It's important to understand how the flu really works in order to better protect yourself from it each year when flu season rolls around. This article will dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions about the flu to set the record straight.

1. Getting a flu shot can give you the flu.

Contrary to what many people believe, you cannot get the flu from getting a flu shot. The viruses used to create the flu shot are inactive so they are incapable of causing infection. Furthermore, the vaccines are put through a series of rigorous tests before they are given to individuals. The only potential side effects from getting a flu shot are redness and soreness at the site of the injection. Getting a flu shot is safe and it does a great job protecting you from certain flu viruses.

2. Flu vaccinations start to wear off towards the end of the flu season.

This myth is incorrect because all flu vaccinations are made to last through one entire flu season. You do not need more than one shot per year, and getting your flu shot as soon as they are available will not mean that it will wear off before flu season is over. In fact, getting your flu shot early is preferable.

3. You can only get the flu once each flu season.

Getting the flu doesn't automatically make you immune to it for the remainder of the flu season. There is often more than one strain of the flu virus going around each year (typically called Type A and Type B), so even if you get one strain you could still catch the other one later on.

4. Healthy people don't need to get a flu vaccination.

Even if you are healthy, that doesn't mean you can't get the flu. Even though you might recover from the flu faster than someone who is less healthy, don't forget the risk at which you put others when you don't get vaccinated. If you get the flu, that puts everyone you come in contact with at risk for the flu, and if a baby or an older individual gets it, they may not be as lucky as you when it comes to recovery. Protect yourself, your loved ones, your co-workers and your community members by getting a flu vaccination each year.

5. There is no treatment for the flu.

Some people believe that you simply have to just deal with the flu and wait for it to go away. However, there are actually two antiviral drugs available that are specifically made to help treat the flu. One is Tamiflu, which comes as a pill, and the other is an inhaled medication called Relenza. These drugs help to lessen the symptoms of the flu, particularly if taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu-like symptoms. Though these drugs don't cure the flu, they can reduce the time that you are sick, help you feel better faster and make you less contagious to others.

6. You need antibiotics to get rid of the flu.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are only effective in fighting bacterial infections. Since the flu is a virus, you need antiviral medications such as Tamiflu or Relenza in order to treat this illness.

7. The stomach flu is the same thing as the flu.

Using the term stomach flu, while quite common, is incorrect. When you feel symptoms like vomiting, nausea or diarrhea without body aches or a fever, you are actually experiencing a gastrointestinal virus rather than the influenza virus. In reality, only the influenza virus should be labeled as the flu.

8. You can catch the flu from going out in the cold without a coat or with wet hair.

While this may not be the safest thing for your health, it isn't the cause of the flu. Many people confuse this situation with the onset of winter coinciding with the beginning of flu season. You have to be exposed to the virus in order to get the flu.

9. If you're feeling well, then you can't spread the flu.

According to Harvard Health Pub, about 20-to-30 percent of people who are carrying the flu virus show no symptoms. So if you think you may have been exposed to the flu, try not to come into close contact with anyone until you find out for sure if you have the virus. Similarly, wait until you have fully recovered before returning to work or your normal activities where you could expose others to the virus.

10. You can't die from the flu.

Unfortunately, this myth about the flu is dead wrong. Some people, especially young children and the elderly, may suffer from more severe reactions to the flu. About 200,000 people per year are hospitalized due to the flu, and about 36,000 people end up dying from it annually, according to WebMD. That's why it's so important to take the flu seriously from the start. See a doctor if you feel that you may have come down with the flu.

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