Flu season is here, and the only things more infectious than the assorted flu viruses are the myths that surround them. While those who unintentionally spread the fake flu facts are doing so with the best intentions in mind, what they say often overshadows what people really need to know about the flu.
We’re here to set the record straight. When it comes to the flu, it’s important to know fact from fiction.
Myth 1: Vomiting and other stomach issues are flu symptoms.
What is commonly referred to as the stomach flu isn’t the flu at all. It’s actually gastroenteritis, which is an infection of the stomach and intestines. It’s usually caused by a virus, but can also be brought on by bacteria. The real flu, or influenza, rarely causes stomach problems.
Myth 2: Flu shots give you the flu.
Neither the vaccine administered with a needle nor the nasal spray vaccine will give you the flu. Vaccines administered through needle either have “inactivated” flu viruses or contain no flu viruses at all. The nasal spray does contain live viruses, but they have been weakened and cannot cause infection. Side effects of the flu vaccine can include low-grade fever, soreness at injection site, aches, runny nose and cough.
Myth 3: Only one virus causes the flu.
Influenza can be caused by multiple and varied viruses. As the viruses adapt and evolve from year to year, there is never just one single virus causing the flu.
Myth 4: The flu vaccine is the same every year.
Flu vaccines vary every year dependent upon what is determined to be the most common strain(s) of any particular year. This year’s primary flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2) and an influenza B virus.
Myth 5: Flu vaccines work right away.
It will take about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body. If you catch the flu before or right after receiving the vaccination, there is a possibility that you will still suffer the symptoms, even after being vaccinated.
Myth 6: If you get a flu shot you can’t get the flu.
Because the flu vaccine only protects against certain strains of the flu virus, it is possible for you to get the flu even after being vaccinated. Age and health status may also affect the flu vaccine’s effectiveness.
Myth 7: The flu is no worse than a cold.
Flu symptoms are usually much worse than those of the common cold, and can include a high fever (100F or higher), sore throat, chills, fatigue, congestion and headache. Unlike with colds, the flu cannot be treated with antibiotics since it is caused by a virus, not bacteria. However, the flu can progress into a bacterial infection, at which time you may be prescribed an antibiotic.
If you think you have the flu, consult your doctor. They can give you a test to help determine whether or not you have the flu, as opposed to gastroenteritis, a cold, or other illness with similar symptoms. Those looking to avoid the flu this season (and who isn’t) should get their flu shot. In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu vaccination.
Flu vaccine information from the CDC