Vaccine Myths

 In Tip of the Week

The 2019-20 flu season is here. Sadly, there have already been three pediatric deaths attributed to the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One of the effective ways to stay healthy during the flu season is to be vaccinated. But many people do not take advantage of the vaccine, even when it is offered for free by many health plans. This may be because of the many misconceptions, or myths, about the vaccine.

We looked to a reliable source, the Harvard University Medical School, to see what they have to say about some commonly held myths.

1.  You can catch the flu from the vaccine. This is one of the more commonly believed myths, and you may know someone who seemingly came down with the flu within days of getting the flu shot. However, the experts tell us that the flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus. It cannot transmit the flu. It is more likely that those that got sick were already infected with the virus, which usually takes a week or two for symptoms to develop.

2.  You are very healthy and don’t ever get sick. We wish this were true, but it is a myth. Even healthy people can get sick. Everyone six-months and older benefits from the flu vaccination.

3.  The flu vaccine is all you need to do to prevent getting sick. This is also a misconception. While the shot is a good preventative measure, you still should practice good healthy hygiene. Eat right, take your vitamins and get plenty of rest. One of the more effective ways to prevent getting sick from the flu, colds and other contagious illnesses, is to wash your hands and wrists thoroughly and often. And wash your food. Contaminated food can also transmit diseases.

4.  The flu is just a bad cold. While some of the symptoms of colds and the flu are similar, if you are achy, tired, nauseous or vomiting, you have the flu. A link is provided to the right to see all the symptoms.

5.  You can’t spread the flu if you don’t have it. You may only think you are well. The experts tell us that up to 30 % of flu is spread by people who carry the virus by are asymptomatic (have no symptoms, or the symptoms are so mild they can’t tell they have it). Getting vaccinated will reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus.

6.  You got a vaccination last year, so you don’t have to get one again. This is another myth we wish were true. But the flu virus mutates and changes. Scientists and researchers change the vaccination to keep up with these mutations. So, you should be revaccinated each year.

7.  You can catch the flu by going outside without a jacket or with wet hair, or by sitting by a drafty window. (Did anyone else just hear their mother say that?) Viruses don’t work that way. Like germs, they are spread through contamination, whether it is someone who has the virus coughing or sneezing near you, touching a door handle or otherwise exposing you to the disease.

8.  Feed a cold and starve a fever. This is another old, untrue myth. One of the most important things you can do when you are sick is to stay hydrated, even when you have no appetite. To quote the Harvard Medical School article, “…poor nutrition will not help you get better.”

9.  Chicken soup will speed up your recovery. While chicken soup is a fluid, and we did just mention the importance of nutrition, it does not have any special healing powers other than fluids and vitamins.

10.  If you have the flu, resulting in a high fever that lasts more than two days, you need antibiotics. Antibiotics are effective medicines against bacteria. However, the flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria. If might be wise to consult a doctor in case you have developed a bacterial infection, but antibiotics may not be prescribed automatically.

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