What's True About the Flu?

girl who has the fluFlu Myth #1: The seasonal flu is annoying, but harmless

It’s important to remember that the run-of-the-mill seasonal flu is not just a bad cold. For one, you usually feel terrible.  In addition to the congestion and cough, you’re apt to have nasty body aches and fever. Aside from the short-term misery and lost workdays, flu can have more serious implications. Sure, most people who get the seasonal flu recover just fine. But the seasonal flu also hospitalizes 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. It kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people. That’s close to the number of women killed by breast cancer each year, and more than twice the number of people killed by AIDS.

Flu Myth #2: The flu vaccine can give you the flu

It’s impossible for the flu vaccine can give you the flu. First, a flu shot only contains a dead virus, which can’t infect you. There is one type of live virus flu nasal vaccine called FluMist, which is specially made to remove the parts of the virus that make people sick.

Flu Myth #3: Antibiotics can fight the flu

Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Flu -- whether it’s typical seasonal flu or swine flu -- is caused by a virus, not a bacteria, so antibiotics have no effect on any kind of flu. 

Flu Myth #4: You can skip years between flu vaccinations

Many people don’t understand that we need a new seasonal flu vaccine every year.The reason is that there are different strains of flu that  can change every year. So every single year, researchers develop a new vaccine. 

Flu Myth #5: If you’re young and healthy, you don’t need to worry about getting the vaccine

It’s true that the people most likely to become seriously ill or die from the seasonal flu are over age 65. But flu can become risky for anyone, even healthy young adults.Chances are that if you’re in good health, you’ll probably recover from the seasonal flu just fine, but it’s still best to avoid getting the flu because protecting yourself isn’t the only reason to get vaccinated. There are people with weaker defenses, like children under 6 months who can’t get the flu vaccine, or people over 65 who are a higher risk for complications from the flu, who depend on others to get vaccinated.

Flu Myth #6: “Stomach flu” is a form of influenza

The word “flu” is so overused that it’s lost much of its real meaning.  Gastrointestinal viruses are called the “stomach flu,” and they have no connection to the actual influenza (flu) virus. If you have vomiting and diarrhea, but no fever or body ache, you probably don’t have the flu.

Flu Myth #7: Vaccines are dangerous

There are many people who do not trust vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Some believe that there could be a link between vaccines and certain developmental disorders in children, like autism.  However, there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, and in fact experts say  that vaccines are the greatest medical advance in history. Vaccines have  prevented more illness and death than any treatment.

Flu Myth #8: If you don’t get a seasonal flu vaccine by November, there’s no point in getting vaccinated

While there were times when vaccine supplies ran out by November, that’s not the case now. There is enough vaccine for anyone who wants it. It’s a good idea to get vaccinated as early in the flu season as possible. But the important thing is to get vaccinated, even as late as December or January since the the flu often doesn’t peak until February or sometimes as late as March.