By Mario Sollitto
Myths about the flu are everywhere. Here are some common myths, as well as facts about the flu:
Flu Myth #1: Getting a flu vaccine can give you the flu.
According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease, there is no way that the flu vaccine can give you the flu because injected flu vaccines only contain dead virus, and a dead virus can’t infect you. People mistake the side effects of the vaccine for flu. While side effects to the vaccine these days tend to be a sore arm, in the past, side effects often felt like mild symptoms of the flu. Also, flu season coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air. It is possible to get the vaccine and then, within a few days, get sick with an unrelated cold virus.
Flu Myth #2: There is no treatment for the flu:
Two antiviral drugs are highly effective against the flu: Tamiflu, in pill form, and Relenza, which is inhaled. Neither one 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. It is best to take the drugs within 48 hours of your first flu symptoms.
Flu Myth #3: Antibiotics can fight the flu:
Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Flu is a virus, not bacteria. So antibiotics have no effect on any kind of flu.
Flu Myth #4: If you get the flu, you can’t get it again during that flu season.
You can get the flu more than once a year. Flu infection can happen from more than one strain of virus. There’s usually Type A and Type B influenza in circulation and both can cause the flu. It’s possible that you could get infected with one type and then the other.
Flu Myth #5: If you are young and healthy, you don’t need to worry about getting the vaccine.
The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old get the flu vaccine. Healthy adults are susceptible to the flu as anyone else. If you have an elderly parent at home, your failure to get yourself vaccinated could endanger them.
Flu Myth #6: Cold weather causes the flu.
Going outside in the winter hatless does not increase your risk of flu. Some people think there is a connection because flu season coincides with colder months, but there isn’t. Flu season is the same throughout the whole country: even in warm climates like Florida. Flu season has to do with the natural cycle of the virus.
Flu Myth #7: If you haven’t gotten a flu shot by November, there’s no point in getting vaccinated.
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.
How to prevent spreading the flu
The flu is contagious. That means it spreads from person to person, often through the air. You can pass on the infection before you feel sick. You are contagious for several days after you get sick. You can catch the flu when someone near you coughs or sneezes, or if you touch something the virus is on, like a phone or doorknob.
To maintain your own health, the person who you care for and other family members, here are some tips:
Clean your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub after you touch the sick person, or handle used tissues or laundry.
Throw away tissues and other disposable items used by the sick person in the trash. Wash your hands after touching used tissues and similar waste.
Talk with your health care provider about taking antiviral medication to prevent you from getting the flu.
Keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, doorknobs, and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
Do not share eating utensils, dishes or cups with a sick person. These items do not need to be cleaned separately, buy they should not be shared without washing thoroughly first.
Wash linens by using a household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Avoid “hugging” laundry prior to washing it to prevent contaminating yourself.
Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub right after handling dirty laundry.