Jennifer Johnson, D.O.
Family Medicine, Prenatal Care, Primary Care
Speaking of HealthPreparing kids for a flu shot: Tips to help parentsOctober 12, 2022
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Flu is a hot topic, particularly as the weather cools and flu season heats up. But it's not just the virus that causes issues. Common myths often keep people from taking necessary steps to prevent it. Let's uncover the truth behind some common influenza myths.
Myth No. 1: The flu isn't a big deal.
False. You should take the flu seriously, regardless of your age or physical condition. It's not a minor illness. Serious complications and deaths result every year due to the flu. In fact, up to 40,000 Americans die from influenza and its complications in an average year.
Infants and young children, people with chronic medical conditions, older adults, people who are pregnant and people who are obese see a higher rate of flu-related complications and death.
Myth No. 2: I've had the flu recently, so I don't need a flu vaccine.
Unfortunately, this is false. Even if you've been diagnosed with influenza and recovered, you can get sick from the flu again. Typically, multiple strains of the flu circulate each year. So, if you were ill from one strain, getting the flu vaccine may help prevent complications if you become ill from a different strain. Also, the influenza virus mutates over time, so it's important to get an updated vaccine every year.
Myth No. 3: Flu shots never work.
False. Healthy people who receive a vaccine that matches viruses causing the disease experience superb protection from the flu. People with compromised immune systems and those 65 and older may experience a lower level of protection after a regular flu vaccine.
It's important to remember that flu vaccines aren't 100% effective but are the best defense against serious flu-related illnesses.
Myth No. 4: Flu vaccines can give me the flu.
This simply is not true. Injectable flu vaccines are composed of portions of inactivated flu proteins, and they can't cause the flu. Nasal spray vaccines have live, weakened flu organisms that can't multiply or cause disease.
Myth No. 5: I didn't get a flu shot as soon as it was available so it's too late to get one now.
The truth is, it's never too late to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is available throughout the flu season. While flu activity typically peaks in the U.S. between December and February, it can extend as late as May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Myth No. 6: Flu vaccines are dangerous, especially for people who are pregnant.
This also is false. Not only is an injectable flu vaccine safe for people who are pregnant, it's highly recommended. Research has shown significant increases in maternal death among unvaccinated women infected by influenza. However, pregnant people should avoid nasal vaccinations, as these have not been studied in people who are pregnant.
Here are some tips for avoiding illness:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with warm water and soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is particularly important before leaving the bathroom, eating or touching your face. A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” Use a paper towel to shut off the faucet and open the door while in a public restroom. This will keep you from recontaminating your hands.
- Don't smoke. In general, smoking makes you more susceptible to illness.
- Cover your cough with the crook of your elbow.
- Avoid others who are sick and stay home from work or school if you are ill.
- Keep your vaccines up to date. Aside from the seasonal flu shot and COVID-19 immunization, the most important vaccines include measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, Tdap for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis, also called whooping cough.
Learn more about flu prevention and treatment.