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Test your flu IQ – myth vs. fact

Test your flu IQ – myth vs. fact

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There seems to be no shortage of misinformation and bad advice when it comes to dealing with the flu and the flu shot. What do you really know about the flu? Harvard Medical School debunks 10 common myths.

• MYTH: You can catch the flu from the vaccine. The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus that can't transmit infection. So, people who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway. It takes a week or two to get protection from the vaccine. But people assume that because they got sick after getting the vaccine, the flu shot caused their illness.

• MYTH: Healthy people don't need to be vaccinated. While it's especially important for people who have a chronic illness to get the flu shot, anyone — even healthy folks — can benefit from being vaccinated. Yearly vaccination against influenza is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age, including pregnant women.

• MYTH: Getting the flu vaccination is all you need to do to protect yourself from the flu. You can take a number of steps besides vaccination. Avoid contact with people who have the flu, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, and consider taking anti-viral medications if you were exposed before being vaccinated.

• MYTH: The flu is just a bad cold. Influenza may cause bad cold symptoms like sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness and cough. The 2019-20 flu season led to at least 18 million medical visits, 24,000 deaths and 410,000 hospitalizations. The cumulative hospitalization rate for children ages 4 and under last flu season was 95.1 per 100,000 people as of the week ending April 25, 2020. Experts attribute the high number of pediatric deaths to a "double barrel" flu season where both influenza A and B were dominant. It's not too late to get a flu shot. Even if it doesn't prevent you from getting the flu, it can decrease the chance of severe symptoms.

• MYTH: You can't spread the flu if you're feeling well. Actually, 20% to 30% of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms.

• MYTH: You don't need to get a flu shot every year. The influenza virus changes (mutates) each year. So, getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to current strains.

• MYTH: You can catch the flu from going out in cold weather without a coat, with wet hair or by sitting near a drafty window. The only way to catch the flu is by being exposed to the influenza virus. Flu season just coincides with the cold weather.

• MYTH: Feed a cold, starve a fever. If you have the flu (or a cold) and a fever, you need more fluids. There's little reason to increase or decrease how much you eat. Though you may have no appetite, "starving" yourself will accomplish little. And poor nutrition will not help you get better.

• MYTH: Chicken soup will speed your recovery from the flu. Hot liquids can soothe a sore throat and provide much-needed fluids. But chicken soup has no other specific qualities that can help fight the flu.

• MYTH: If you have a high fever with the flu that lasts more than a day or two, antibiotics may be necessary. Antibiotics work well against bacteria, but they aren't effective for a viral infection like the flu. However, some people do develop a bacterial infection as a complication of the flu, so get checked out if your symptoms drag on or worsen.

Whether it’s the flu or COVID-19 (they are NOT the same), follow the “three W's” – 1) Wear a mask, 2) Wash your hands, and 3) Watch your distance.

Then avoid the “three C’s” – 1) Crowded spaces where you can’t maintain 6 feet of distance, 2) Close contact – wear a mask around anyone from outside your household, and (3) Confined spaces where there is poor ventilation.

You can fight the flu, Lincoln (#FightFluLNK) with these simple steps and knowing the facts.

Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you "Health and the City," a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights the local organizations that impact community wellness. Direct questions or comments to jpearsonanderson@healthylincoln.org.

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