The flu can make you feel terrible, and if you’ve ever had it, you’ve probably been the recipient of some well-meaning, but incorrect advice.
Here are some common flu myths to be aware of and what to do instead.
Flu Myth No. 1: Cold Weather Causes the Flu
Similar to the myth that being out in the cold can give you a cold, being out in cold weather cannot cause the flu. The flu is caused by a virus, not your exposure to weather. But the weather can play a role. During the colder months, people tend to congregate inside, which is a ripe environment for flu transmission. Colder temperatures can weaken your nose’s first line of immune defenses, but you need to be exposed to the virus in order to contract it.
Flu Myth No. 2: The Flu Vaccine Makes You Sick
The flu shot contains an inactive virus, which cannot make you sick. The flu vaccine nasal spray contains a live weakened virus, which also cannot make you sick. Regardless of which vaccination you receive, you can experience discomfort like mild body aches or a low-grade fever after vaccination as a result of your immune system working to build immunity from the virus. That immune system activation is helpful, reports the CDC, noting that flu vaccines helped stop over 4 million flu infections in 2018-2019.
It takes about two weeks once you get the vaccine for you to be fully protected from the flu virus, however, you can still contract the flu or another respiratory virus immediately after getting your shot. This can account for why some people who become sick after getting vaccinated attribute to the vaccine, experts say.
Flu Myth No. 3: Getting Sick with the Flu is Better than Getting the Flu Vaccine
Getting sick with the flu can be very serious, especially for older adults or those with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems. Any flu infection carries a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death.
Flu Myth No. 4: The Stomach Flu is the Same as the Flu
Even though they’re both caused by viruses, the stomach flu and flu are not the same. The virus that causes stomach flu affects your gastrointestinal tract while the influenza virus affects your respiratory system. But like the influenza virus, the stomach flu spreads more rapidly during the colder months thanks to people congregating indoors. Some strains of the flu can cause gastrointestinal upset, but if you also have respiratory symptoms and a fever, you could have the flu.
Flu Myth No. 5: The Flu is Just a Bad Cold
While the flu and common cold have similar symptoms and affect the respiratory system, the flu is not the same as a cold nor is it just a more severe version of a cold. A cold is milder than the flu and can last longer.
Flu symptoms to watch for:
- Fever of 102°F or higher
- Chills and sweats
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle aches and headaches
- Chest pain
- Stuffy nose
- Loss of appetite