10 Misconceptions About Cold and Flu

Although many people use the term "stomach flu" to describe an illness that includes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or diarrhea, it's actually not a true medical diagnosis. The actual name for this condition is gastroenteritis and this irritation or inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract might be caused by a virus or by bacteria or parasites.

Influenza is a respiratory disease, not a gastrointestinal disorder. Sometimes children and in rarer instances adults with the flu might feel sick to their stomachs, but it's not a typical flu symptom the way fever, congestion, fatigue and muscle aches are.

It's OK to have sex with someone who has a cold or the flu, as long as you don't kiss them.

Verdict: Probably true

Having sexual contact with someone doesn't put you at risk for cold or flu, Brownfield said. Kissing someone on the mouth might spread germs, but the same could be said if you shook a person's hand or planted a smooch on a person's cheek when they had a runny nose.

Because viruses get transmitted both in the air and through direct contact, a good rule of thumb is to not get too close to people with a cold or the flu to protect yourself from coughs and sneezes.

As for giving a loved one a kiss when they're sick, Brownfield said, "I'd take the risk."

If you get the flu once, you won't get it again that season.

Verdict: False

In any given year, there's more than one type of influenza virus that might be circulating, said Dr. Carolyn Bridges, associate director for science in the influenza division of the CDC.

Once you've had the flu, you develop antibody protection to the viral strain that caused it. But infection with one type of influenza strain will not safeguard you against any new or mutated or different viral strains.

And because each flu season is unique, the vaccine gets formulated annually based on the influenza strains projected to be circulating.

You should skip the flu shot if you're pregnant.

Verdict: False

Women who are pregnant are at increased risk of complications and hospitalizations from the flu, which is why the vaccine has been recommended for pregnant women, said Bridges.

She said there are three important reasons why she would urge pregnant women to get the flu shot: First is because they are at increased risk for complications from flu. A second is that women can pass along preventive antibodies to their babies, who can't get vaccinated during their first six months of life. And third is to help women avoid a high fever during pregnancy, which may lead to congenital illnesses in their offspring.

Getting the vaccine is safe during any trimester of pregnancy, said Curtis Allen from the CDC. "Influenza is more dangerous to the mother and child than any indication of the vaccine."

Even so, Allen said that he realizes that many mothers-to-be are concerned about what they put into their bodies, and that includes deciding whether or not to get the shot. Maybe that's why only 12 percent to 14 percent of pregnant women typically get a flu shot, even though all are advised to do so.

The low vaccination rates among pregnant women could stem from concerns over the safety of the mercury-containing compound thimerosol, which is used as a preservative in the shot.

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