This is the final post in a three-part series about the influenza virus and vaccine.
As a nurse, I often talk to people in the community who are confused by all the misinformation that exists about the flu and the flu vaccine. To help you make an informed decision about getting the flu shot, I’ve put together a list of the top five myths I encounter every flu season.
Myth #1 The flu is not a serious illness
- The flu is serious. Today, between 4,000 and 8,000 Canadians die each year from flu
- Even though most healthy people recover from the flu within a few days, it can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and even death, especially in the elderly and those with chronic health conditions
Myth #2: “Stomach flu” is a form of influenza.
- Influenza (commonly known as “the flu”) is a serious respiratory disease caused by a virus which infects the breathing passages
- 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
- Remember: in children, the influenza virus can sometimes cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Myth #3 I’ve never had the flu so I don’t need the flu shot
- Influenza viruses change or mutate often. Most people can get sick with the flu several times during their lives. Getting the flu vaccine is the best protection against the virus
- It’s possible not to get sick with the flu and still spread life-threatening germs. People with the weakest defenses, like children under 6 months or older adults, are at high risk of complications from the flu. Their safety depends on the rest of us getting immunized
Myth #4 The flu shot can give you the flu
- The flu shot cannot give you the flu. It’s impossible. The vaccines used in the Universal Influenza Immunization Program do not contain any live virus
- This myth continues to survive because flu shots are given in the fall when there are any number of cold viruses circulating. Often, people mistakenly believe the presence of a cold is a reaction to the flu vaccine
- The body needs 2 weeks to build up protection to the flu virus after you receive your immunization
Myth #5 I am pregnant, so I shouldn’t get the flu shot
- Flu shots are safe and recommended for all pregnant women
- Pregnant women, especially those in the second and third trimesters, and women up to six weeks after delivery are at a higher risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia, from influenza
- If you are due to give birth during flu season, it is especially important to get the flu shot in order to protect new infants (under 6 months) who cannot get the shot themselves
There is a lot of confusion about the flu shot and how it works. Basically, the flu shot helps strengthen your body’s natural immune response against the flu. The shot encourages your immune system to build antibodies against the virus, making it stronger and ready to fight off the flu.
Check out this video put together by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care about how the flu vaccine is made:
I hope this has helped clear a few things up and I hope everyone gets their flu shot this year!
Share your experience:
To share your experience, or to get more information about the flu and the flu vaccine, you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Frances Weatherley is a Registered Nurse and is currently an Infection Control Specialist for Health Protection Services at Halton Region. She has worked for Halton Region for the past 8 years and prior to this has been working in various hospital settings for over 18 years