Myths about the flu virus run as rampant as the virus itself. There are so many myths and misconceptions surrounding the flu virus, that it is hard to keep them at bay during flu season. Unfortunately, many of the myths and misconceptions are so misconstrued that they propagate completely false information throughout the medical world. With flu and cold season on the horizon, it is essential that you get your facts straight about the nasty flu virus. To start you off, here are a few of the common myths and misconceptions about the Flu, the virus, and why they are wrong.
The seasonal flu is completely harmless
For most people, the seasonal flu is relatively harmless. It is a self-limiting virus that may knock you down for a few days, but it tends to go away on its own. However, for the elderly, the young, or the immunocompromised the flu can be a serious condition. Even if you do not fall into any of these categories, you could be hit with a flu virus that makes you home or hospital bound for days. The flu makes people feel absolutely terrible, and it can actually have serious implications. On average, the flu hospitalizes around 200,000 people per year and kills up to 49,000. Those numbers are too large to think that flu is not an issue.
The flu vaccine gives you the flu
Many people are weary about getting their annual flu vaccine because they claim that the vaccine will give them the flu. This is not only false, its completely impossible medically-speaking. The flu vaccine contains a dead flu virus that is injected into your muscle. Since the virus is dead, it does not contain any of the necessary machinery or enzymes to activate itself and proliferate throughout your body. Instead, your body will learn to recognize the dead virus so that if you are ever exposed to the live version, then you should not get sick. Vaccines can give you slight side effects though that many people mistake for the flu. Often people have a sore arm from the injection and may feel mild symptoms such as a cough or runny nose for a day. They think this is a mild form of the flu, but in reality it is not. Most people do not even feel these mild side effects.
There is no treatment for the flu
Since the flu is caused by a virus, there are no antibiotic treatments for the flu, but there are two antiviral treatments that have been clinically proven to reduce flu symptoms. Tamiflu and Relenza can be taken within any timeframe of the onset of the virus, but are most effective when they are taken within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Both of these medications can reduce the amount of time that you are sick and reduce your symptoms. However, they will not completely cure your flu. Your body has to cure the flu itself.
If you get the flu once, then you cannot get it again during flu season
A lot of people assume that if they have already had the flu once during flu season then they are immune for the rest of the season. However, this is completely false. The flu virus is constantly evolving and adapting to its environment. Each season, a different type of flu virus circulates throughout an area, and each season a type A and type B version are found. Thus you could get sick from the type A version at the beginning of the season and then from the type B version at a later date.
Vaccines are dangerous
In recent years, there has been a growing mistrust in the use of vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Some people believe that there is a link between certain vaccine ingredients and developmental disorders in children such as autism. Even though the scientific community has conducted numerous studies to prove otherwise, many people are still afraid to vaccinate themselves or their kids. However, vaccines are actually completely harmless and they could even be considered one of the greatest medical advances in history. With vaccines, the medical community has completely eradicated many deadly diseases and has halted many others. If you are still concerned though, then talk with your doctor or your child’s doctor to learn more about the science behind vaccines in general and the flu vaccine in particular.
Cold weather causes the flu virus
No matter how many times you have heard it, going outside with wet hair will not cause the flu or a cold. You also don’t always have to wear a hat during the winter to protect yourself from the flu. The only connection between the flu and cold weather is that the flu season always seems to correlate with cold weather, but correlation does not equal causation. Cold weather does not spread the flu virus or cause your immune system to falter. In fact, the flu virus may even be halted by cold weather since the virus may not be able to thrive in cold, harsh conditions. The only far-fetched reason that cold weather may be a cause of the flu is that during the winter everyone is often stuck inside. This leads to easy propagation of the virus through sneezing, coughing, and touching.
The flu is a nasty virus that affects thousands of people each year. While it is normally self-limiting, it can cause severe illness in the elderly people, young children, or in the immunosuppressed population. For this reason, the flu should not be taken lightly. Keep your friends and family informed and educated by telling them about these common myths and misconceptions surrounding the flu virus. By learning the facts and not listening to the rumors about the flu virus, you can arm yourself and your family with the tools they need to survive and thrive during the flu season.