12 Influenza Myths and Facts
Are You in the Know?
Have questions or concerns about getting this year’s flu vaccine? Many people do. Here are some of the most frequently held myths and the truth behind them.
1) Myth: You can get influenza from a flu shot.
Fact: The flu shot does not contain the live virus, so it is impossible to get influenza from the vaccine. Side effects may occur in some people, such as mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, or a low-grade fever. Vaccination is safe and effective, and the best way to help prevent influenza. Another explanation is that it is possible to be exposed to influenza viruses, which cause the flu, shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect.
2) Myth: Influenza is no more than a nuisance, much like the common cold, that cannot be prevented.
Fact: Influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu,” is a severe respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death. Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
3) Myth: There is no treatment for the flu.
Fact: Two antiviral drugs are highly effective against the flu: Tamiflu, taken as a pill, and Relenza, which is inhaled. It is important to start these drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. But the drugs are beneficial even if taken 48 hours after the first signs of flu. Neither Tamiflu nor Relenza cures the flu. But they can reduce the amount of time you’re sick by one or two days and make you less contagious to others. These drugs work with both the typical strains of seasonal flu as well as swine flu.
4) Myth: Antibiotics can fight the flu.
Fact: Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Flu is a virus, not caused by a bacteria. So antibiotics have no effect on any kind of flu.
5) Myth: There’s only one type of vaccine available to help protect against the influenza virus.
Fact: Influenza vaccine options are available for children, adults and seniors. Talk to your pharmacist to find out more about the vaccine option that’s right for each family member. For example, the nasal flu vaccine is not recommended for children under 2, adults over 50, or those with certain chronic illnesses.
6) Myth: Young & healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated.
Fact: It’s true that the flu vaccination is routinely recommended for people who have a chronic illness. But everyone can benefit from being vaccinated. Current guidelines suggest that children ages 6 months to 19 years old, pregnant women, and anyone over age 49 be vaccinated each year. In addition, the flu shot is recommended for healthy people who might spread the virus to others who are particularly susceptible. For this reason, health care workers are routinely advised to get the flu vaccination to protect their patients. Of course, you never really know who is or isn’t immune suppressed, so you might as well get the flu shot.
7) Myth: If you get the flu, you can’t get it again during that flu season.
Fact: Many people assume that if you have already has the flu this season, you cannot get it again; however, flu infection can happen from more than one strain of virus.
8) Myth: You do not need to get a flu shot every year.
Fact: The influenza virus changes (mutates) each year. So getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak.
9) Myth: You cannot spread the flu if you’re feeling well.
Fact: Actually, 20% to 30% of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms.
10) Myth: Vaccines are dangerous.
Fact: In recent years, there has been a growing mistrust of vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Some people believe that there could be a link between vaccines, specifically the ingredient thimerosal, and developmental disorders in children, like autism. However, there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, and experts say that we are losing sight of how important vaccines are to preventing life-threatening illnesses.
11) Myth: Cold weather causes the flu.
Fact: No matter how many times your mother told you that you would catch cold from not wearing your winter coat, , going outside without it does not increase your risk of flu. The rise and fall of flu season each year has more to do with the natural cycle of the virus, although experts aren’t exactly sure how it works.
12) Myth: If you have not gotten the seasonal flu vaccine by November, there’s no point getting vaccinated.
Fact: While supplies of vaccine used to run out by November, that is not the case anymore. Nowadays, there should be enough vaccine for anyone who wants it, and you should be able to get it as late as December or January. Besides, the flu often doesn’t hit its peak until February or sometimes as late as March. So no matter the month, if you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, go get it. You could spare yourself and your family a lot of misery.
Still have concerns? A Wender & Roberts Pharmacist will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have. Just come on by.