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Top 13 Flu Myths

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

Flu Myth #11: Vaccines are dangerous.

In recent years, there’s been growing mistrust of vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Some believe that there could be a link between vaccines -- specifically the ingredient thimerosal -- and developmental disorders in children, like autism.  However, there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism, and experts say that we’re losing sight of how important vaccines are.

“Vaccines are, arguably, the greatest medical advance in history,” says Perl. They’ve prevented more illness and death than any treatment.

If you’re still concerned, you should know that there are thimerosal-free flu vaccines available. In fact, every year, manufacturers produce more of this vaccine than people use. If you want your child to get it, just ask your doctor.

Flu Myth #12: Cold weather causes the flu.

No matter what your grandmother may have said, going outside in the winter hatless does not increase your risk of flu. While there might seem to be a connection -- since flu season coincides with colder months in the U.S. -- there isn’t. After all, flu season is the same throughout the whole country: even if it’s frigid in Minnesota, it’s still warm in Florida. The rise and fall of flu season each year has more to do with the natural cycle of the virus, although experts aren’t exactly sure how it works.

Colder weather might increase the risk of flu in one way: We might come into closer contact with other people because we’re all stuck inside. That could make it easier for the virus to spread.

Flu Myth #13: If you haven’t gotten the seasonal flu vaccine by November, there’s no point getting vaccinated.

While supplies of vaccine used to run out by November, that’s not the case anymore, says Allen. Nowadays, there should be enough vaccine for anyone who wants it, and you should be able to get it as late as December or January.  Besides, the flu often doesn’t hit its peak until February or sometimes as late as March.

So no matter the month, if you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, go get it. You could spare yourself -- and your family -- a lot of misery.

WebMD senior writer Daniel J. DeNoon contributed to this report.

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Reviewed on September 08, 2010

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