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8 Common Myths About the Flu

Woman with Flu

(Photo: Getty Images)

During the flu season, which runs from October to February, as many as one in five Americans comes down with the influenza virus. Victims then have to endure chills, aches, and a burning fever. A few unlucky ones even experience medical complications that can be lethal if unchecked. It is, therefore, surprising to doctors and MPH degree students that myths about such a common virus still exist in the minds of their patients. Here are the top eight myths about the flu.

1. People Can Catch the Flu from the Vaccine
While it is true that there is a virus in the flu vaccine, it is inactive and incapable of infecting someone. In contrast, it helps the body form antibodies which fight the active flu virus.

2. The Flu is Also the Common Cold
Most people mistake the flu for a bad cold. Yes, the two illnesses have similar symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose, but they are caused by two different viruses. Furthermore, unlike the flu, the common cold has no vaccine and is not lethal.

3. Kissing Spreads the Flu
Kissing people during the flu season is not as dangerous as most people think. This is according to a recent study on the flu conducted by masters of public health students of the University of Arizona. The probability of someone catching the virus is so low that a kiss is still worth the risk.

4. Getting a Flu Shot Every Year is Unnecessary
The influenza virus is notorious for its ability to mutate. It changes so rapidly that there is a different strain of it every year. Thus, the only way someone can keep a flu infection at bay is by getting vaccinated every year.

5. People Get the Flu Only Once a Year
As mentioned above, there is a different strain of the flu virus every year. In some years, it can even be more than one. It is therefore possible for someone to catch the flu virus soon after recovering from it.

6. Chicken Soup Helps Flu Victims Recover
One of the biggest myths about the flu is that chicken soup is necessary for recovery. Yes, a hot fluid can ease a flu patient’s sore throat, but that is all it does. The same applies to chicken soup. The only way to rid oneself of flu is by getting a flu shot.

7. Expectant Women Should Not Get a Flu Shot
The contrary is true. Expectant women must get a flu shot before the flu season begins. This is the only way they can protect themselves and their unborn baby from the effects of the virus. An expectant mother who gets a serious bout of the flu can have complications and go into early labor.

8. Nursing Mothers Should Not Get a Flu Shot
Newborns are ineligible for the influenza vaccine until they are 6 months old. The only way to protect them until they are eligible is to give their mothers a flu shot. The antibodies formed in the mothers’ systems are then passed on to them through breast milk.

As the list above shows, there are many misconceptions about how the flu spreads, and how to prevent it.