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Top 13 Flu Myths

What’s the truth about the flu, and what’s myth?

Flu Myth #7: “Stomach flu” is a form of influenza.

The word “flu” is so overused that it’s lost much of its actual meaning.  Gastrointestinal viruses are called the “stomach flu,” but they have no connection to the actual influenza virus. If you suffer vomiting and diarrhea, but no fever or body ache, you probably do not have the flu.

Keep in mind: in children, the influenza virus can sometimes cause vomiting and diarrhea. And these symptoms have also been associated with some cases of swine flu.

But when it comes to typical seasonal flu, vomiting and diarrhea are rare in adults, says Trish M. Perl, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore.

Flu Myth #8: If you get the flu, you can’t get it again during that flu season.

Many people assume that if they’ve had the flu recently, they can’t get it again -- and thus don’t need to get the vaccine, Perl says. That’s not the case because flu infection can happen from more than one strain of virus.

“In any flu season, there’s usually both Type A and Type B influenza in circulation,” Perl tells WebMD. Both can cause the flu. It’s quite possible that you could get infected with one type and then the other.

So if you’ve already had the flu, you should still get the vaccine. “Otherwise, you could be sick and unhappy twice,” Perl says. 

Flu Myth #9: If you’re young and healthy, you don’t need to worry about getting the vaccine.

First of all, we should all get the seasonal flu vaccine. Sure, if you’re in good health, you’ll probably recover from the seasonal flu just fine. But why suffer through the flu if you can avoid it? Second, protecting yourself isn’t the only reason to get vaccinated.

“Healthy adults forget that while they themselves might be at low risk for getting serious flu complications, other people in their family might not,” says Hay. If you have a small child at home, or an older parent, your failure to get yourself vaccinated could endanger them. 

And that’s true on a larger, societal level. People with the weakest defenses, like children under 6 months, can’t get the flu vaccine. Their safety depends on the rest of us getting immunized.

 

Flu Myth #10: You can skip years between flu vaccinations.

Experts say that some of us don’t understand that we need a new seasonal flu vaccine every year. “It’s confusing, since the flu vaccine is different from most vaccines, which offer longer-lasting protection,” says Schaffner. “With the measles vaccine, you get two injections and then you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of your life.” The flu vaccine isn’t like that.

Why? The particular strains of flu that are dominant change every single year. So every single year, researchers have to develop a brand new vaccine. 

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