It’s that time of the year when illnesses such as seasonal flu are starting to become more common. This is why it’s important for mums and dads to be informed about various flu myths and facts so that they can provide the best care possible for their kids.
But first things first, what exactly is the flu, and what makes it different from other illnesses?
Colds and flu
Both the common cold and influenza or flu are similar in that they’re caused by viruses and that sore throat, runny nose, congestion, and cough are common symptoms. What makes them different is that flu also has worse symptoms, such as fever, headache, and muscle soreness.
The methods of treatment are also different since the common cold usually goes away after a few days, while the flu can sometimes last for a week or more and usually requires antiviral medication to help with recovery.
How do you know if your little one has a cold, or a flu? Source: flickr.com
And just like myths about the common cold, there are also flu myths that parents need to keep themselves informed about. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 flu myths:
1: You can get flu from the flu vaccine (the most common of the flu myths)
Of all the flu myths, this one is a pretty common misconception, especially since flu vaccines are also composed of a flu virus that has been ‘deactivated.’ What this means is that while it is a flu virus, it can’t transmit infection.
There are also cases of kids who got the flu right after getting the flu vaccine, making their parents assume that it’s the vaccine that caused them to get sick. However, the flu vaccine takes about a week or two before it can provide protection, so those cases where kids got sick after being vaccinated simply means that they were going to get sick anyway.
2: Healthy people don’t need the flu shot
Anyone can benefit from getting a flu shot, even perfectly healthy kids! This is because even if healthy people don’t necessarily get sick because of the flu, they can still be carriers of the virus, which means that they can spread it to people who haven’t been given a flu shot, or for people who easily get sick.
It’s recommended that children aged 6 months to 19 years old, pregnant women, and anyone over age 49 have the yearly flu shot.
3: Flu can cause gastrointestinal problems
This one’s another common flu myth, since there’s also an illness called the ‘stomach flu.’ While both of them are viruses, the stomach flu isn’t influenza, or the more common flu virus.
Influenza can sometimes cause gastrointestinal problems, but usually these symptoms appear after the classic flu symptoms, such as fever and colds. Gastrointestinal problems usually are a different ailment altogether from the flu.
4: Pregnant mums shouldn’t get the flu vaccine
A lot of pregnant mums are very wary about their health, and rightfully so. Which is why some mums tend to be wary when it comes to vaccines during pregnancy since they’re worried that it might have a negative impact on their baby.
When it comes to the flu vaccine, however, it’s recommended by most doctors that pregnant mums get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. Not only does it prevent the mother from getting sick, the vaccine also helps their little one be protected against the flu, especially since babies under 6 months can’t get the flu vaccine yet.
Another amazing thing is that when the mother’s body creates antibodies in response to the vaccine, the antibodies also go into the breastmilk. This means that their child will reap more benefits from breastfeeding!
5: Yearly flu shots are a waste of money
It’s true that yearly flu shots can sometimes be pricey, especially if your entire family is getting vaccinated. A lot of people also think that you just need to get a flu shot once, and you’re set for life, just like with other vaccines.
The thing to remember about flu is that the influenza virus changes or mutates every year. What this means is that being vaccinated against the flu virus doesn’t necessarily mean that your body can fight off a mutated version of the virus.
That’s why it’s recommended for families to get the yearly flu shot in order to help ensure that they’re always protected against the virus.
6: Frequent hand washing can prevent flu
Frequent hand washing is a good habit to have, and it can prevent a lot of illnesses. It’s true that hand washing can reduce your chances of getting the flu, but it doesn’t offer 100% protection against it.
That’s because flu can also spread through the air via tiny droplets of saliva that are expelled whenever a person talks, coughs, or sneezes, and handwashing can’t really prevent infections that result from airborne infection.
The best way to prevent flu is to keep healthy, and get vaccinated!
7: “My child had the flu shot, and she still got sick. That means that it doesn’t work”
Flu shots don’t provide 100% protection against the flu virus. In most cases, it’s about 60-90% effective at preventing the flu. The reason behind this is that aside from mutating yearly, there are also multiple strains of the influenza virus that can spread at any given time.
The yearly flu vaccine protects against what scientists think might be the most common strain of the virus. This means that if your child gets infected by a more uncommon strain, even if you were vaccinated, there’s a possibility that your child can still get sick since it’s a different strain entirely.
However, it doesn’t mean that the flu vaccine won’t do anything. Since your child was already vaccinated against a different strain, their flu symptoms will be less severe since the vaccine protects them to an extent.
8: Antibiotics are all you need to fight the flu
This is one of the more common flu myths since a lot of people think that because antibiotics fight off infections, then antibiotics can also fight off the flu. But when it comes to the flu virus, antibiotics simply won’t work because antibiotics don’t work on viruses.
Antibiotics work best for bacterial infections or any illness that’s caused by bacteria. When it comes to viruses, they’re actually no good.
It’s also not a good idea to give your kid antibiotics on a whim since bacteria can develop an immunity to antibiotics, making them ineffective to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Only give your child antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them.
9: Flu shots cause Alzheimer’s
Flu shots have been proven to not cause any disease or ailment, and that includes Alzheimer’s. This is also one of those flu myths that can do more harm than good.
This myth probably spread about because senior citizens are recommended to get flu shots yearly, and senior citizens are also more prone to Alzheimer’s, so some people might have made the connection that getting a flu shot causes Alzheimer’s.
10: Chicken soup helps fight flu
This one’s very common among flu myths. Chicken soup is tasty, and it does help relieve the flu symptoms and can make your little one feel much better, but it can’t cure influenza. That’s because chicken soup doesn’t have any properties that directly fight the flu.
This doesn’t mean that giving your little one chicken soup is a bad idea, it just means that you also need to give your little one medicine in order to help them fight off the virus.
Sources: health.com, health.harvard.edu
READ: Is it safe to get a flu shot during your pregnancy?