Flu Fiction: 15 Common Misperceptions About Seasonal Flu


In terms of vaccination, this means that just because you got the flu already, this doesn't meant that you should still get the vaccine. You are still susceptible to other types of flu and the vaccine offers the best, although not full-proof, protection against getting these other strains, Schaffner says.

'I got vaccinated last year, so I don't need to get the vaccine this year.'

Verdict: Definitely Not True

As stated above, there are hundreds of different strains of flu virus, and these strains change constantly, Poland says. Every year, the vaccine is made by selecting the three most common types of virus that are currently circulating. For the same reason that getting the flu in November won't protect you from getting another strain in December, getting the vaccine for the strains of flu circulating in 2010 will not necessarily protect you from the types that will be circulating in 2011.

'If I haven't gotten vaccinated by Christmas, there's no point.'

Verdict: False

While it's better to get the vaccination before the flu season peaks, that doesn't mean it's too late to protect yourself by vaccinating in January or February or even March.

"Flu peaks in February and early March, so there's still time to get vaccinated," says Schaffner, "but that's why I say jog, don't walk, to the drug store to get vaccinated today."

'Catching a chill by sitting near drafty window or going out in cold weather will make me get the flu.'

Verdict: Mostly False

Getting severely chilled to the point of hypothermia can make the immune system less resilient, which may make someone more susceptible to flu, doctors say, but you still have to come into contact with the flu to get the flu – and getting a chill, in and of itself, is not going to do it.

Also, your standard amount of "chill" from a drafty window or going out with wet hair is not going to be enough to predispose you to illness, Schaffner says.

'Taking citamin C or echinacea will prevent flu'

Verdict: The Data Suggest Not

Despite speculation that taking large doses of vitamin C or echnicacea will protect people from flu, the data just aren't there to support them as flu-fighters, Schaffner says. There's some mixed evidence that these supplements will help fight off a cold, but when it comes to flu, these methods "strike out," he says.

'Taking antibiotics will fight the flu.'

Verdict: No, Antiviral Medication Will

While antibiotics are sometimes used to control infection such as pneumonia that can accompany serious bouts of flu, antibiotics cannot treat viral infections like the flu.

Antiviral mediation such as Tamiflu and Relenza can fight off the flu virus, but even these can only shorten the duration of the illness, not resolve it altogether, Horovitz says.

'I should starve a fever, feed a cold'

Verdict: Please Don't

This old adage may sound nice, but there is "no science to prove that it works," says Dr. Peter Katona, an infectious disease specialist at UCLA Medical Center. "You don't starve a flu, you need food and liquids for both [flu and cold]."

"Keeping up fluids is most important," Schaffner adds, "and if you're hungry, keep it to simple foods to go easy on your tummy. This is not the time to get spicy Szechuan chicken."

'The flu is a normal illness, so I should just stay at home and ride it out.'

Verdict: Not Necessarily

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