The Height of the Season: Flu Myths vs. Facts

Monday, January 13, 2014 2:30 PM comments (0)

flu seasonWorried about catching the flu this season? There are many things you can do to prevent the spread of the flu—washing your hands regularly, getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine—but one of the best is to make sure you get vaccinated. 

Kenneth Fox, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, addresses some of the pervasive myths surrounding the flu and the flu shot to give you your best shot for dodging the bug this season:

Myth: I got the flu shot and got the flu right away.
Fact: The flu shot is not 100 percent effective but it is effective. The vaccine reduces a person’s risk of developing significant symptoms by 60%.

Myth: The flu shot is effective immediately.
Fact: It takes a period of two weeks for the flu shot to take effect.

Myth: Only the elderly and young children are affected by the flu.
Fact: The elderly and children younger than two (as well as people with other underlying medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, cerebral palsy, COPD, diabetes, kidney or liver disease) are at highest risk for flu complications. Those with compromised immune systems are also at especially high risk. But, the flu can strike anyone.  Some of the most serious cases can occur in people who were previously healthy.

Myth: People suffering from the flu should always go to the hospital.
Fact: Healthy people should take care of themselves at home: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take Tylenol or Advil. Be watchful of other health issues though. If you are suffering from labored breathing or dehydration, you should go to the emergency room.

Myth: You should feed a cold and starve a fever.
Fact: Maintaining nutrition and staying hydrated is important when you are sick with the flu, so the answer is feed and feed.

Myth: Getting the flu shot once per season is always adequate.
Fact: One flu shot per season is adequate for almost everyone, with the exception of children under nine years old who should get two doses of flu vaccine (separated by  four weeks) during the first flu season they are immunized.

Myth: Flu and cold symptoms are the same.
Fact: Flu symptoms include a fever, cough, congestion, chills, fatigue, body aches, and often sore throat and headache. Cold symptoms are fewer in number, much milder and last just a few days.

Myth: The flu lasts 24 hours.
Fact: Children are typically ill 7-10 days but can shed the virus a few days before their symptoms begin and up to 2 weeks after the start of symptoms. Adults are typically ill 5-7 days but shed the virus 1 day before symptoms begin and usually up to 5 days after the start of symptoms. Some symptoms like fatigue may last for several weeks in kids and adults. 

Myth: There is no way to protect yourself from the flu.
Fact: The flu vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent the flu and to reduce the risk of its complications. Also, thorough and frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with contaminated surfaces, getting adequate sleep, nutrition and hydration all reduce a person’s flu risks. Being watchful of complications and seeing your doctor if serious symptoms arise (like difficulty breathing and dehydration) reduce your risks of harm. Staying home when ill with the flu and covering your mouth when coughing also reduces the risks of spread in the community. 

It’s not too late to get vaccinated this flu season. Have you had your flu shot?

Flu Season: Protecting Your Family from the Bug

Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:00 AM comments (0)

flu seasonEvery flu season is different but there’s one thing you can count on: there will be one.  Flu season in the U.S. can begin as early as October and continue into late May. Perhaps you’ve already noticed an uptick in coughing and sneezing on the train, in the office or at school, but it’s not too late to take action and keep your family happy and healthy throughout flu season. 

Curtis Mann, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some top tips for keeping the flu from catching up with you and the rest of your family this season:

  • Vaccinate! The annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against and prevent the spread of  the flu. Everyone over the age of six months can and should be vaccinated against the flu each year, especially children under five and people over 65 because they are at high risk for serious flu-related complications.
  • Wash your hands. You, but especially your hands, come into contact with millions of germs and bacteria every single day. You can pick them up from surfaces, computer keyboards and the shake of a hand. Regular handwashing is one of the very best ways to avoid spreading illness and getting sick. Washing your hands frequently throughout the day can’t get rid of everything but it prevents the build-up of germs. It only takes a little water, some soap and the ABCs—don’t stop washing until you get to Z.
  • Remember your devices. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs, especially during flu season, is to keep surfaces clean. Countertops and door handles are obvious hotspots but when was the last time you disinfected your phone or tablet? Phones and tablets go everywhere you go, but unlike hands, they aren’t washed after every trip to the bathroom and then they spend the majority of their time near your hands, nose and mouth. Studies show that phones and tablets are likely to carry many of the same contaminants in the same numbers as the door handle of a bathroom.  Wipe down the screens and bodies of your gadgets regularly with a non-alcohol based cleaner. 
  • Be healthy to stay healthy. The key to avoiding illness is stay healthy on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, stay active with exercise, make sure you are managing your stress levels and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet whenever possible. 
  • See your doctor. If you think you were exposed to someone with the flu, anti-viral drugs, which are 70-90% effective, can help prevent you from developing the flu. 
  • And a friendly reminder. You can't get the flu from the flu shot or nasal spray, so vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!

Do you make sure to get the flu vaccine every year? 

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