Top 5 Misconceptions About the Flu

The 2017 flu season has been compared to the 2009 swine flu pandemic by many health organizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded over 30,000 hospitalizations between the months of October and April in 2017. With the hospitalizations came nearly 180 deaths of children and adults. Because last year’s flu season was this detrimental, is it more important than ever that people receive the flu shot so another fatal year is avoided.

However, more and more people are avoiding getting their flu shots due to some common misconceptions. To ensure the public receives the most accurate information, we have explained the top misconceptions about the flu.

1. The Flu Shot Will Give You the Flu

This is probably the most popular myth when discussing the flu. The flu shot does not give you the flu, it tricks your body into thinking it has the flu in order to build up an immunity to it. The virus that is introduced into your body during the flu shot is not able to multiply and spread, which is what causes the flu.

2. The Stomach Flu is the Same as Influenza

While the stomach flu is not a joy to have, it is not the same as influenza. The stomach flu is typically derived from a foodborne illness such as undercooked or rotten food. The flu shot is meant to protect you from influenza, which attacks your lungs and respiratory system, not your stomach.

3. Antibiotics Help Fight the Flu

Despite what some may think, antibiotics will not help you get over the flu. Antibiotics are meant to kill and treat a bacterial infection and have no effect on a viral infection, such as the flu. The difference in the two can be tricky, but your doctor will know the best course of treatment for you.

4. If You Received the Flu Shot Last Year, You Don’t Need it This Year

This is a misconception that the flu shot will last for a few months and sometimes can last for a year.  However it is a short term vaccine that will not last forever. Additionally, influenza viruses are constantly changing. Because of this, a vaccine from the previous flu season may not protect you through an upcoming flu season. To protect yourself, it is best to get one every year to stay safe.

5. The Flu is Basically a Bad Cold

While the two have similar symptoms, the flu is definitely not a terrible cold. The common cold mostly affects the nose and sinuses, while the flu affects the lungs and respiratory system. The best way to tell the difference is to keep an eye on body temperature, because the cold rarely makes your temperature spike like the flu does.

Summary

Influenza viruses cause seasonal epidemics of respiratory illness every year. While some people might experience mild illness, others may experience a more serious infection requiring hospitalization.

Getting your flu shot each year is the best way to decrease your chances of getting sick with the flu. Additionally, when more people receive the flu vaccine, the virus is less able to circulate in the community.  We hope explaining these flu misconceptions makes your decision to get the flu shot that much easier.

Author
Dr Gopika Gangupantula Dr. Gopika Gangupantula, MD, FAAFP is a Board-Certified Family Physician, Diabetes Obesity Specialist, and Fellow, American Academy of Family Physicians. She has also received Fellowship training in diabetes to provide the utmost support for each patient. If you need help managing your Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes or Gestational Diabetes, please contact our clinic at http:/www.DrGDiabetes.com or call us at (209) 497-4677. We are open Monday-Friday, 9AM – 6PM.

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