As flu viruses begin to circulate each season, so do misconceptions about them. Here are five of the most common flu myths debunked:
1. Influenza is not dangerous, just a nuisance much like the common cold
Fact: Influenza is a highly contagious and serious infection that can be life-threatening. Each year in the United States, the flu can cause up to 49,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations.
2. You don’t need a flu vaccine every year
Fact: Since influenza viruses are constantly changing and because the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, it is important to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone age six months and older.
3. I’m healthy, so I don’t need a flu vaccine
Fact: Even healthy people can get sick enough to be hospitalized or even die from the flu. In fact, each year, an average of 20,000 children age five years or younger are hospitalized due to flu-related complications — and most are healthy.
4. Flu vaccines can give you the flu
Fact: A flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. There are different side effects that may be associated with getting a flu shot which are mild and short-lasting, and may include soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given.
5. If I don’t feel sick, I can’t spread the flu
Fact: Individuals with the flu may be able to infect others from one day before getting sick to five to seven days after.
The first step to preventing flu is getting an annual flu vaccine but individuals should also follow everyday preventive actions such as good hand hygiene and covering coughs and sneezes. And if you do get the flu, stay home to avoid spreading it to others and take antiviral medications if prescribed by a healthcare professional.