Flu Mythbusting


Sophie Jalkut

Today, rumors and misunderstood information about Coronavirus are spreading quickly and widely. A Hong Kong doctor told Bangkokpost that she has “seen information… telling people to use a hairdryer to disinfect your face and hands, or drink 60-degree hot water to keep healthy.” Early in the year, insect repellent was bought in frantic waves due to fear of EEE. While there exists a multitude of sound sources and correct information on the internet, our technological advancements help spread faulty, half-truths, which send many individuals into a panic. 

In a time when the truth about new health scares is challenging to find through a fog of misinformation, understanding how to protect ourselves against local, more familiar pathogens are pushed aside. Beating back a bush of rumors and lessening panic starts by clarifying illnesses such as influenza, which have been normalized in our community. Below are five commonly believed myths about the flu. 

          1. “You can catch the flu from the vaccine.”

A vaccine is made up of killed or inactive viruses. Therefore, when someone receives the vaccine, the microorganisms in it carry significant markings to boost the immune system, but that individual cannot contract influenza. However, since the body takes one to two weeks to process the inactive virus, it is possible to get the flu after the vaccine, especially if you were exposed to a different strain. 

          2. “The flu is just a bad cold.”

Although the flu and the common cold share symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, and hoarseness, influenza is far deadlier than the cold. Last year in the United States, 36,000 people died, and many more were hospitalized. In New Canaan two years ago, a ten-year-old boy died due to complications of the flu. 

          3. “You can’t spread the flu if you’re feeling well.”

20% to 30% of individuals carrying the influenza virus do not have symptoms. 

          4. “You don’t need to get a flu shot every year.”

The influenza virus is highly adaptable, which means it mutates every year. Health care professions spend many hours every year, developing a vaccine to match the strain most likely to cause an outbreak. Therefore, it is imperative to receive the vaccine every year.  

          5. You can catch the flu from going out in cold weather without a coat, with wet hair, or by sitting near a drafty window. 

This myth has been around forever. It is still widely believed even when our understanding of illness transmission proves that it is impossible. This inconsistency is reinforced with influenza’s association to cold weather. The only way to contract the flu is by being exposed to the influenza virus.