Myths About the Flu and Flu Vaccine
No one wants to get the flu, but every year in early October, people begin debating the value of getting the flu shot.
The reality is that the flu shot is key in helping you stay protected from the influenza virus.
Along with washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and staying away from people who have visible signs of the flu – getting the flu shot is essential. Remember, when you get the flu vaccine, you’re not only protecting yourself but also those you live, work, and interact with.
The flu is highly contagious, so the more people who are vaccinated, the easier it is to keep others healthy. For the elderly, children, and anyone with an auto-immune disease or chronic illness, the flu can be very dangerous. Yes, people do die from the flu.
What You Need to Know About the Flu
Share these key facts and details about the flu with your family, friends, colleagues, and social networks:
- The flu is a contagious respiratory illness. It is caused by influenza viruses that attack the nose, throat, and lungs.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot every year.
- Experts believe the flu spreads when people who are infected by the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. This action launches tiny infected droplets into the air which land in the mouths and noses of people nearby.
- Anyone with the flu can infect others within a six-foot perimeter.
- Children under the age of 18 are most likely to become ill from the flu.
- Flu viruses are most active in the fall and winter. Flu season generally starts in October, peaks between December and February, but can last into May. The influenza virus is active year-round.
Be aware of these flu symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills. Not everyone who catches the flu will have a fever.
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Some people might vomit or have diarrhea. This is more likely in children.
The flu typically comes on suddenly - one day you’re feeling well and the next you’re wiped out with a cough, sore throat, headaches, body aches, and fatigue. Do not ignore these symptoms. It’s important that you stay home and rest, drink extra fluids and try not to have contact with anyone else.
If you have the flu, you are highly contagious in the first three to four days of being sick. In fact, you can infect others with the flu one day before you experience flu symptoms and you continue to be contagious five to seven days after becoming sick.
Because the flu virus can be active in your body for two days before you experience symptoms, you can easily infect others before you become sick.
As the CDC explains on their website: “That means you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.”
The Truth About the Top 10 Myths About the Flu
There are so many myths about the flu, that we want you to understand the truth about this highly contagious illness.
MYTH: You can catch the flu from the flu vaccine
FACT: No, you cannot catch the flu from the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is made from an inactive flu virus that cannot spread infection. You might know someone who got sick after receiving the flu vaccine, this person was already going to get sick.
It takes up to two weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you from the flu.
MYTH: Healthy people don’t need the flu vaccine
FACT: Everyone needs the flu vaccine. Anyone, regardless of age and health status can catch and spread the flu. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months old be vaccinated yearly for the flu (including pregnant women).
The CDC estimates that during the 2016-2017 flu season, flu vaccinations prevented 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits, and 85,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
MYTH: Pregnant women cannot get the flu vaccine
FACT: The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months, including pregnant women be vaccinated against the flu. Pregnant women are at high risk of experiencing serious complications from the flu.
The flu vaccine protects both mom and baby after birth. This is important to remember because babies cannot get the flu shot until they are six months old. Newborn babies are at an elevated risk of suffering serious complications from the flu.
MYTH: The flu isn’t a big deal
FACT: The influenza virus may appear to be mild because it has cold-like symptoms. But the sore throat, cough, sneeze, fever, chills, fatigue, muscle and body aches, and headaches can result in very serious illness.
Every year, an estimated 36,000 people in the United States die from the flu and an additional 20,000 are hospitalized because of the flu.
The flu is much more serious than catching the common cold.
MYTH: I don’t need to get the flu shot every year
FACT: You need to get the flu shot every year. The flu virus changes every year, so it’s important to be vaccinated and have protection from the flu strains most likely to cause illness.
MYTH: The flu vaccine has serious side effects
FACT: The flu vaccine has one of the highest safety records of any vaccine. Any side effects from the flu shot are mild. You may experience a sore arm or minor irritation at the injection site.
MYTH: The flu causes vomiting and diarrhea
FACT: The flu might cause children to experience an upset stomach, but generally the “stomach flu” is an incorrect term. The virus that causes an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea is not the influenza virus.
If you have a sore stomach, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, or other digestive problems and do not have any other recognized flu symptoms such as muscle aches, headaches, runny nose, sore throat, or cough - you have another illness and do not have the flu.
MYTH: I wash my hands a lot, so I won’t get the flu
FACT: Disease experts believe that the flu is spread when someone infected by the virus who is within six feet of you coughs, sneezes, or talks. This action spreads tiny infected droplets in the air that then land in your mouth and nose – causing you to to be infected from the flu.
While you can contract the flu virus when you touch an infected surface and then touch your mouth or nose, this is less likely. Of course, we want you to keep washing your hands. But do remember that regular hand washing doesn’t protect you from the flu.
MYTH: I got the flu shot and still caught the flu; this proves the flu shot doesn’t work
FACT: Yes, some people who get the flu shot do get sick with the flu. However, it’s very likely that these people were infected with the influenza virus before getting the flu vaccine. There are many strains of the influenza virus, so if you do catch the flu after getting the flu shot, you also likely contracted a virus strain that wasn’t part of the flu vaccine.
MYTH: You can catch the flu or a cold by going outside without a coat or with wet hair
FACT: No, the flu is spread when someone who is infected with the virus coughs, sneezes, or talks within six feet of you. It’s true that flu season is more prevalent during the cold fall and winter months, but this does not mean that cold weather causes the flu.
Do you have questions about the flu? Post your questions about the flu and flu vaccine on the AHCC Research Facebook community page.
Getting the flu vaccine yearly is key in protecting yourself and others from the flu. Just like taking AHCC to strengthen your immune system, the flu vaccine is your first line of defense against the flu.A strong immune system can help you defend against the flu but remember that anyone including healthy strong and active people can and do get sick from the flu.