Flu Fact Vs. Fiction
Influenza, aka the flu, is a respiratory illness that’s caused by a virus. The flu is fairly common and every year, millions of people end up getting it. Some end up with a mild illness and recover within a few days. Others end up needing to go to the hospital for treatment. In some cases, people can die of the flu.
As another flu season gets underway, it can be helpful to separate fact from fiction about the illness. When you have the facts, you can take action to protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus.
Flu Myth 1: The Flu Vaccine Gives You The Flu
The flu vaccine contains either a live form or inactive form of the virus but the vaccine itself doesn’t make you sick with the flu. Instead, exposure to a small amount of the virus allows your immune system to build up antibodies so that can effectively fight off infection.
Some people do feel a little out of sorts after getting a flu shot. For example, you might feel achy or have a headache a few days after the vaccine, but that is usually due to your body reacting to the vaccine, not because you’ve come down with the flu.
Flu Myth 2: You Only Need to Get the Flu Vaccine Once
The flu vaccine is an annual vaccine, meaning you should get it at the start of each flu season, usually beginning in the late summer or early fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of six months1 get the vaccine each year, with very few exceptions.
Every year, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the strains of the virus that are expected to be the most prevalent during the upcoming season.
Flu Myth 3: The Flu Is No Worse Than the Common Cold
The flu and the common cold share some symptoms in common, such as sneezing, cough, and a sore throat. But the flu is generally much more severe than the common cold, as it can lead to hospitalization or even death in some people.
During the 2019-2020 flu season, as many as 56 million people in the U.S. got sick with the virus2. There were between 410,000 – 740,000 hospitalizations due to the flu and up to 62,000 deaths.
Flu Myth 4: The Vaccine Offers 100% Protection Against the Flu
You can get the flu vaccine and still come down with the flu. The vaccine protects against certain strains of the flu, but not all of them.
Even though the flu vaccine won’t protect you from all types of the flu, it’s still worth getting, as it can protect you from the ones that are likely to be most widespread during the season. If you do get sick with the flu after getting vaccinated, you’re likely to have a milder illness. Plus, getting the vaccine each year helps to protect others around you.
Flu Myth 5: Antibiotics Can Treat the Flu
Antibiotics are medications that help fight infections caused by bacteria. They aren’t effective against the flu, which is caused by a virus.
If you have a bad case of the flu, your doctor might prescribe an antiviral medication to help treat it. But usually, the best treatment is to rest, get plenty of fluids, and limit contact with other people.
Flu Myth 6: Only _____ Need to Worry About the Flu
Some people are at an increased risk of developing complications from the flu, often requiring hospitalization. People over the age of 65 or people who have chronic medical conditions need to be particularly cautious.
But that doesn’t mean that people who have a lower risk of complications can ignore medical advice or skip the vaccine. Anyone is at risk of developing a severe case of the flu. It’s still a good idea to get a vaccine each year and to practice good habits, such as regular hand-washing, to protect yourself and others, even if you’re young and healthy.
Flu Myth 7: Taking ____ Will Fight or Prevent the Flu
Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of fluids is a good idea, but it’s not necessarily a sure-fire way to prevent the flu. The same is true of taking vitamins and other supplements. If your physician recommends taking supplements, such as vitamin C or vitamin D, it’s fine to do so. But it’s important to note that vitamins alone won’t fight or ward off the virus.
Have you gotten your flu shot this season?
- Who Should and Who Should NOT Get a Flu Vaccine, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/whoshouldvax.htm
- 2019-2020 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary In-Season Burden Estimates, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm
- People at High Risk for Flu Complications, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/index.htm
- Types of Influenza Viruses, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/viruses/types.htm
- 10 Flu Myths, Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/10-flu-myths
- Misconceptions About Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/misconceptions.htm
Cox Media Group