1. Getting a flu shot can give you the flu.
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Contrary to what many people believe, you cannot get the flu from getting a flu shot. The viral material used to create influenza vaccinations is either completely inactive or weakened so it’s incapable of causing infection. Furthermore, the vaccines are put through a series of rigorous tests before medical professionals are allowed to administer them to people. There are some potential side effects from getting a flu shot, such as pain at the site of injection and, rarely, a mild fever. However, the flu shot is considered very safe and is effective in protecting you from seasonal influenza.
2. You need antibiotics to get rid of the flu.
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Antibiotics are only effective for fighting bacterial infections. They won’t help to treat the flu because the flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria. Your doctor might recommend antiviral medications, which are created to treat viruses, for the treatment of influenza. In rare cases, vulnerable people may become infected with a bacterial infection at the same time that they have the flu. This can make people feel very unwell and does require treatment with antibiotics.
3. You can only get the flu once each flu season.
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There are two common types of the influenza virus: type A and type B. They both cause people to experience similar symptoms, and it’s impossible to tell which strain you have without laboratory testing. Becoming infected with one of the influenza viruses prompts your body to produce antibodies, which "remember" the virus and work to make it highly unlikely that you’ll become infected again with the same strain. However, becoming infected with one strain does not provide immunity to the other strain(s). Therefore, it’s possible that you might get the flu more than once during a season because two different strains can cause separate illnesses.
4. Healthy people don't need to get a flu vaccination.
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Anyone can become infected with the flu, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination for everyone over the age of 6 months, with rare exceptions. It’s true that if you’re healthier you’re also less likely to become unwell from the flu, and you’re more likely to have a speedy recovery.
However, having the flu still isn’t normally the most pleasant experience, and while you’re infected it’s possible for you to pass the virus on to people who are more vulnerable. Therefore, vaccination isn’t just beneficial for protecting yourself; it’s also necessary for protecting your loved ones, coworkers and other members of your community.
5. There is no treatment for the flu.
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While there’s no quick "cure" for influenza, there are many treatments that make the symptoms more bearable. The use of over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve fever symptoms and aches and pains. Staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest can help your immune system fight off the virus.
If you become unwell with the flu or are at high risk of developing complications from having the flu, antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) may be recommended. These drugs aren’t available over the counter; your doctor must prescribe them. They help to lessen flu symptoms, particularly if you take them within 48 hours of the onset of any flu-like symptoms. Although they don't cure the flu, they can reduce the length of time that you’re sick, help you feel better faster and make you less contagious to others.