5 Flu Myths Uncovered

11/12/2012

Many patients are concerned about the flu vaccine because of the things that they have heard. That said, individuals and families with small children are much more vulnerable in the colder months to catching the flu. Here are some flu myths that I’ve debunked to encourage my patients and readers to get the flu vaccine in order to lessen your chances for getting the flu this season.

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Flu Myth #1: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.

Not true! The injectable forms of the “flu” vaccine contain “inactivated” or dead remnants of different strains of the influenza virus. Since the virus is dead it cannot transmit a live virus to you. What it does do is stimulate your bodies’ immune system to protect against this potential invader should you be exposed.

There is, however, a caveat: There is one type of live virus flu vaccine, the nasal form of the vaccine known as FluMist. Even though it is considered a “live” vaccine, the influenza strains it contains are specially engineered to remove the parts of the virus that make people sick. This should not cause the flu in those who have received the vaccine.

Many people say to me: “Doc, I got the flu after receiving the vaccine.”  The one explanation I have is that flu season occurs when lots of colds and viral bugs are being shared between people. Because of this, it is likely that one of these viruses is the cause of flu-like symptoms.

Flu Myth #2: If you get the flu, you can’t get it again during that flu season.

Not true! Many people believe that if they’ve had the flu during flu
season then they are immune to getting it again and therefore do not need the vaccine. Unfortunately, the flu infection can occur from more than one strain of the virus. So, if you’ve already had the flu, you should still get the vaccine. If not, you could be sick and unhappy several times during flu season. 

Flu Myth #3: Cold winter weather causes the flu.

Not true! Apologies to Dr. Mom, but going outside in the cold winter wind without your hat does not increase your risk for getting the flu.

While it may seem like there is a connection between the cold and catching the flu, those who live in warmer climates are also susceptible to the flu. So, even if you move from the cold in Massachusetts to the warmth of Arizona during the winter season, you are still at risk of catching the flu.

There is however one connection between the spread of the flu and the cold winter months: people are more frequently together indoors, making the spread of the virus more common when it’s cold outside.

Flu Myth #4: If you are around people who say they feel well and look well you cannot get the flu.

Not True! If a person is going to get the flu it takes anywhere from one to four days from exposure for symptoms to occur. If you happen to be around a person who is carrying the influenza virus, you may be exposed. This makes it important to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, as well as to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, in order to decrease your risk for bringing the virus into your home.

Flu Myth #5: The “flu” is only dangerous to senior citizens.

Not True! While it is true adults greater than age 65 are more likely to become seriously ill or die from influenza, it can be risky for healthy adults, especially to those with cancer, heart, lung, or kidney disease. It is also important to remember that children under two years of age have some of the highest rates of hospitalization due to illness from the flu. And, babies under six months of age are at a very high risk for illness from the flu because they are too young to get the vaccine.

Vaccination of adults and children actually helps to protect infants from the flu. Their safety depends on the rest of us getting immunized!


Dr. Rob believes in preventative and integrative approaches to medicine. He specializes in family medicine as well as children's health and wellness.
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