If you've ever had the flu, you know how sick you can be. Chances are good that some of the advice friends and family gave you about avoiding or dealing with the flu was wrong. There seems to be no shortage of misinformation and bad advice when it comes to dealing with the flu. One in five Americans will get the flu this winter, with more than 200,000 sick enough to be hospitalized. Yet most of us still don't get vaccinated, often because of misconceptions about the shot. Here are four of the most common, along with the facts you need to know.
Flu season is upon us, and with it comes the annual rehashing of flu myths. Don't fall for them-particularly the tall tales about flu vaccines. Most everyone benefits from vaccination, and it is especially important for people who are at greater risk for flu and those who interact with them regularly, including young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease.
Myths about the flu!
MYTH: The flu is just a bad cold.
FACT: The flu can lead to serious complications. On average, each year in the United States, more than 200,000 people, primarily the elderly, are hospitalized with the flu.
MYTH: I caught the flu once this season, so I am protected against it for the rest of the year.
FACT: Don't bet on it. You may develop immunity against the strain that infected you. But that does not guarantee that you have immunity against other flu strains that are circulating in the same season.
MYTH: You cannot spread the flu if you are feeling well.
FACT: You actually can. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass along the virus for 10 days or longer. Symptoms start one to 4 days after the virus enters the body. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, they still may spread the virus to others.
MYTH: I will catch the flu from not wearing a coat or from having wet hair.
FACT: This is just an old wives' tale. Since flu season coincides with the coldest time of the year, many people often associate the flu with a cold, drafty environment. But the only real way for anyone to catch the flu is by being around the influenza virus.
Please see important safety and eligibility information below.
Myths about vaccination
MYTH: You can catch the flu from a flu vaccine.
FACT: Vaccines are designed not to cause infections. If you have some of the common side effects associated with getting a flu vaccine (stuffy nose, low-grade fever, body aches, or fatigue), it may be your body starting to build antibodies against the flu.
MYTH: After Thanksgiving is too late to get vaccinated.
FACT: You should be vaccinated as soon as possible, but you still have plenty of time. The timing and length of flu season varies from year to year. But flu usually peaks in January and February and may circulate as late as May.
MYTH: Healthy people do not need to be vaccinated.
FACT: Even healthy people can get the flu. Just because you are healthy does not mean that you cannot catch the flu or spread it to others. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. No one vaccine is right for everyone. Talk to your doctor about which is right for each member of your family.
MYTH: You do not need to get a flu vaccination every year.
FACT: You do. Influenza viruses may change from year to year. Even though you may have been protected from the most prevalent strains last year because you received a flu vaccine, next year's strains may be very different and unrecognizable to your immune system. Flu vaccines are only expected to help protect for a single season, so it is very important to continue to get vaccinated annually.
Please see below for important safety and eligibility information.
The flu is a good example of how medical myths can get in the way of good medical care. When it's flu season, take the necessary steps to stay healthy. That includes separating fact from myth.
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