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Eliminating Myths About the Flu and Flu Vaccines
- There are many myths concerning the flu and the flu vaccine.
- While the flu is contagious, it’s possible to prevent its spread.
- Some of the symptoms of the flu are mild, it can be deadly in some cases.
RN-MSN – Chief Nursing Officer
With flu season upon us, it is important for to understand the facts about the flu and flu vaccines. Each year, many people decide to receive the flu vaccine, but there are others who are hesitant due to myths that they think are factual about the flu and the flu vaccine.
Of course, it is up to everyone to make their decision about receiving the flu vaccine, but it is imperative that factual information is presented as many do not fully understand the facts.
In the United States there are millions of people infected by the flu virus. Some of these individuals have varying symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
Others may have more serious and sometimes even life-threatening symptoms.
Myths Regarding the Flu and the Flu Vaccine
There are many myths surrounding the flu and flu vaccines. This makes it very difficult to discern the truth versus untruths.
Here are five of the most common flu myths and the facts behind the myths:
The flu is just like the common cold – it is no big deal – the flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can result in hospitalization or death. The elderly, young children, and those who are pregnanct, have cancer or asthma are at a greater risk for serious flu complications. The flu can cause great stress on the body which can increase the risks for additional complications such as pneumonia and heart attacks.
The flu vaccine can give an individual the flu – it is impossible for the flu vaccine to give someone the flu. It does not contain the live virus, but rather an inactivated virus (killed virus) which cannot cause infection. Some people have mild reactions to the flu vaccine, such as redness, swelling, soreness at the site, low-grade fever, and aches but these typically only last for about 1 to 2 days.
The flu vaccine does not work – the flu vaccine does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, but it significantly reduces the risk. Once the the flu vaccine is received, it takes approximately two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection.
The presence of the flu will be low like in previous years – due to many of the prevention efforts being more relaxed since COVID-19, there may be an increase in flu activity during the upcoming flu season. The prevention efforts that need to be encouraged and implemented are physical distancing, handwashing, mask-wearing, and staying at home when sick which will help to drastically reduce the presence of flu in the community.
The flu vaccine cannot be received at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine – this information is not correct since the flu vaccine can be received at the same time as other immunizations, such as the COVID vaccine or booster and childhood immunizations.
Effective Reminders for Preventing the Flu
Although the flu cannot be eliminated entirely, the following tips can be used to help prevent it:
- The flu is the only respiratory virus that is preventable by vaccination
- Wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Do not touch your face with unclean/unwashed hands. This is the easiest way for germs to enter the body.
- Smiling and laughing consists of a mechanism that can actually help boost one’s immune system
- Eat healthy and balanced meals in an effort to strengthen one’s immune system
- Exercise boosts one’s immune system and speeds up the recovery process from illness
- Stay home if a fever is present for at least 24 hours until a fever is gone without the use of any fever-reducing medications
Benefits of Flu Vaccines
The most obvious benefit of receiving the flu vaccine is to prevent yourself from being infected with the flu. However, receiving the flu vaccine also helps keep the disease from spreading to other people.
Once someone has the flu virus, it can take a few days before symptoms begin. During that time period, the infection can spread to others, including family members and those at high risk for complications and death.
Annual flu vaccines offer huge benefits to those at risk for flu complications such as those with asthma, heart disease, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Those individuals are more likely to become seriously ill, which can result in hospitalization or possibly death. Also, if a mother is pregnant and receives a flu vaccine, greater protection is provided for the mother and baby for several months after birth.
The reason to get a yearly flu vaccine is that one’s body needs to maintain a specific level of antibodies to fight against one kind of germ that has the same susceptibilities each year.
However, with the flu, it is different due to fairly rapid changes that result in different strains of the flu. One needs a flu vaccine each year to keep up with these changes in order for one’s body to produce the antibodies they need to fight off the current strains of flu.
The Bottom Line
Choosing to receive the annual flu vaccine is an individual’s choice. However, it’s important for the individual to the truth about the flu and the flu vaccine.
It’s crucial that individuals fully understand the importance of preventing the flu if at all possible and the benefits of receiving the annual flu vaccine.
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