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Top 5 Flu Myths Debunked by Harvard Medical School

No one wants to get the flu. You feel awful, you might have to miss work, and you risk spreading it to your friends, family, and colleagues. The good news is there are ways to avoid getting the flu altogether!  According to the CDC, the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.

The flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor visits each year. For example, during 2016-2017, flu vaccinations prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations. In seasons when the vaccine viruses matched circulating strains, the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.

Unfortunately, many Americans will avoid the vaccine altogether because they’ve been persuaded by misinformation and rumors created by the media or word of mouth. Take it from the doctors and health professionals at Harvard Medical School – here are a few myths that you’ve probably heard before and how they can be debunked rather easily:

1. YOU CAN CATCH THE FLU FROM THE VACCINE

Fact: 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.

2. HEALTHY PEOPLE DON’T NEED TO BE VACCINATED

Fact: 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. Current CDC guidelines recommend yearly vaccination against influenza for everyone older than 6 months of age, including pregnant women.

3. YOU CAN’T SPREAD THE FLU IF YOU’RE FEELING WELL

Fact: Actually, 20% to 30% of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms at all.

4. YOU DON’T NEED TO GET A FLU SHOT EVERY YEAR

Fact: The influenza virus changes (mutates) each year. So getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak.

5. YOU CAN CATCH THE FLU FROM GOING OUT IN COLD WEATHER

Fact: The only way to catch the flu is by being exposed to the influenza virus. Flu season coincides with the cold weather. So people often associate the flu with a cold, drafty environment. But, they are not related.

 

Resources: Harvard Health Publishing; 10 Flu Myths: Dispelling misinformation about the flu vaccine, sickness, treatment, and recovery; Updated: November 12, 2018, Published: November 2009.