It's crucial to know the facts about the flu to keep your family healthy during flu season. We talked with Preeti Sharma, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist with Children's Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, to further sort out flu myths from flu facts.
Flu myth #1: The flu is just a bad cold.
The viruses that cause the flu are different from the viruses that cause a cold. In general, flu viruses make you look and feel more sick than cold viruses. With the flu, your symptoms may come on faster, you may have a higher fever, and there's a greater chance of having more serious complications. Learn more about how to tell the difference between a cold versus the flu.
Flu myth #2: The flu isn't dangerous – if you're young and healthy.
Most children get better with rest, fluids and time. But every year, a small number of children die from the flu.
"Serious flu complications that can lead to death are preventable. The best thing you can do is get a flu vaccine," Dr. Sharma says.
To better understand if a child is having complications, or needs immediate medical care, see when to go to the ER for flu symptoms.
Flu myth #3: The flu shot can give you the flu.
The flu shot doesn't have live flu in it, so it's not possible to get the flu from it. The shot contains inactive strains of the flu that help your immune system make antibodies (tiny proteins that help you fight off infections). If you have any mild side effects from the shot, like body aches or a sore arm, those are signs that the shot is doing its job – creating antibodies to the real virus.
Flu myth #4: Antibiotics can treat the flu.
The flu is a infection, which means it's caused by a virus. This is different from a infection, which is caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can kill bacteria, but not viruses. So because the flu is a virus, antibiotics will not help treat it.
In some cases, children can take an antiviral medicine called Tamiflu soon after their symptoms start. Learn more about when children should take Tamiflu.
Flu myth #5: It's too late to get the flu shot.
The flu shot will protect you whenever you get it, even later in the season.
"Ideally, vaccinations are given in September and October. But even if this window is missed, it's still beneficial to get the flu vaccine, since there are often second waves of flu later in the season," says Dr. Sharma.
Flu myth #6: The flu shot does not work because you can still get the flu.
It's true that getting a shot may not keep you from getting the flu. But it can significantly reduce how sick you get and your risk of complications.
"It's important for families to realize that the flu can cause numerous complications, and even though vaccination might not prevent getting the flu, it does an excellent job of preventing serious complications of the flu like pneumonia, breathing difficulties and death," says Dr. Sharma.
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