Top 5 Common Myths about the Flu

Winter is here, and along with the smell of fireplaces in the air and the slight snow falling onto trees, it means the awakening of a flu season. And for people who are already tired of COVID, this is not a welcomed return.

Anywhere from 10 million to 40 million people in the US are inflicted with the flu each year. With this season off to a rough start, ThinkFives wants to ensure everyone has an accurate understanding of the flu.

Here are the Top 5 Myths About the Flu that our researchers found.

The Flu is Not Serious

Many people use the term “flu” to refer to a cold or other respiratory illness. However, influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and death, especially for high-risk populations such as infants and the elderly.

According to the CDC, the flu kills anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people in the U.S. each year, and sends about 200,000 to the hospital, depending on the severity of the strains.

Basic cold symptoms, like sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness, and cough are common. But the flu can lead to very severe symptoms as well. “If you have emergency symptoms of the flu, get medical care right away,” advises the Mayo Clinic. “For adults, emergency symptoms can include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; chest pain; ongoing dizziness; seizures; worsening of existing medical conditions and severe weakness or muscle pain.”

The Flu Vaccine Can Give You the Flu

This is one of the most inaccurate rumors about the flu. It is impossible. According to UCSF Health, “The flu shot delivered via a needle contains ‘inactive’ viruses that simply cannot cause an infection. While the vaccine delivered by nasal spray contains live viruses, experts have weakened them so they cannot give you the flu.”

This myth has persisted because it is common to experience some symptoms unrelated to the flu virus, such as tenderness or redness in the area where you received the shot. Some people also may develop achiness, a mild fever, or a runny nose.

Also, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women get vaccinated against the flu. In fact, expecting moms have a higher risk for serious complications from influenza than other women of reproductive age.

You Don’t Need a Flu Shot If You Are Healthy or Got a Shot Last Year

According to the CDC, “everyone 6 months of age and older is recommended to get an annual influenza vaccine, including even healthy adults. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications or people who live with or care for people at higher risk for serious influenza complications.”

Being healthy does not figure into the recommendation. If you were to wait until you start to have symptoms of the flu, it’s too late. It takes up to 2 weeks for a vaccine to take effect.

To protect yourself and others from the flu, you must get the vaccine every year. That’s because the vaccine becomes less effective over time and its formulation changes each year to protect against specific viruses circulating that season.

Getting a Vaccination is All You Need To Do

While the flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with the flu, it does not prevent it. During seasons when flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40% to 60%.

That means there about half of the people with the shot may still get the flu. There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself besides vaccination:

  • Avoid contact with people who have the flu
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

If you have the flu (or a cold) and a fever, you need more fluids. There’s little reason to increase or decrease how much you eat. Though you may have no appetite, “starving” yourself will accomplish little. And poor nutrition will not help you get better.

Also, – and not to insult your caring grandmother – Chicken soup does not cure the flu. Hot liquids can soothe a sore throat and provide much-needed fluids. But chicken soup has no other specific qualities that can help fight the flu.



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