For all we’ve learned about the influenza virus over the last 100 years, there still is so much we don’t know about the dastardly flu bug.
And outside of the medical community and the front lines of the fight against influenza, America’s common knowledge of the flu, how it works and how it’s transmitted might be equal to a fifth grader’s understanding of the virus at best.
And when it comes to myths about the flu, there’s popular misinformation being spread from coast to coast this season that’s as real as the Easter Bunny. Most of these flu mistruths are well-meaning advice from friends and family, but they won’t help you and your family stay safe and free from the flu’s wrath this winter.
As we prepare to battle the flu again this season, here’s our countdown of America’s Top 8 Flu Myths and the straight flu truth hidden behind them:
You Can Catch the Flu from the Flu Vaccine
Thousands of doctors have rolled their eyes when their patients update them on this one. Many people who get sick after receiving the vaccine believe the shot caused their illness.
The flu truth of the matter is the vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can transmit infections. People who become ill after receiving a flu shot were unfortunately going to become sick anyway.
It takes one to two weeks for the vaccine to give people protection from the virus, which leads us to our No. 2 flu myth.
Getting the Flu Vaccine Gives You 100% Immunity from the Flu
If only. As Centers For Disease Control director Dr. Tom Frieden notes, the flu vaccine traditionally 50 percent successful in protecting someone from the flu. The vaccination alone isn’t enough to protect you from the virus. Smart hand hygiene practices, which start with washing your hands with soap and water frequently, and smart flu preventive measures (like avoiding contact with people who have the flu) are essential to keeping yourself flu-free this season.
It’s also important for people who were exposed to the virus before receiving the vaccine to consider taking anti-viral medications.
The Flu Ain’t No Big Thing, it’s Just a Bad Cold
This is the most dangerous flu myth. Every season, many people try to power through the flu without using medication or consulting a doctor thinking they are just suffering through a bad, intense cold. Sometimes this decision can be fatal.
The flu kills 36,000 thousand people annually in the United States alone and send more than 200,000 to the hospital every year. Remember, the clear symptoms that distinguish the flu from a cold: fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, as well as a cough and sore throat.
One Flu Shot Equals Lifetime Immunity from the Flu
It’s a funny urban legend and it be wonderful if it were true, but in fact the influenza virus mutates each year. To ensure you have immunity from the flu strains most likely to cause an outbreak each year you need to receive a flu shot annually.
You Can Catch the Flu by Going Out in the Cold Without a Coat
Mom means the best when she tells you to bundle up before going outside to brave winter, but the only way to catch the flu is by being exposed to the influenza virus. Winter’s cold alone has nothing to do with the flu.
Feed a Cold, Starve the Flu
Many flu sufferers going on hunger strikes thinking poor nutrition will help them beat the flu. The flu is actually a dehydrator. When you have a cold, fever or flu, your body needs more fluids to get its strength back.
Vitamin C is a Fool-Proof Flu Preventer
Daily Vitamin C supplements offer numerous health benefits, but providing flu immunity is not one of them. There’s no evidence to prove daily Vitamin C supplements can help you fight off the flu.
Chicken Soup is Great for the Flu Weary Soul
Alas, this tasty myth is revenue gold for Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup sales, but aside from soothing a sore throat and providing much needed fluids, chicken soup has no magical flu-curing powers.
Flu myths are fun, and funny, but they unfortunately get in the way of solid flu prevention measures and medical care. As you and your family prepare to fight the flu this season, make sure you’re armed with the flu truth.