We are all aware that the flu comes around each year and in most cases, will have you stuffy, shivering and bedridden for just over a (boring) week or so. But what do we think we know about the flu? And what do we really know?
After a winter of social restrictions and very few flu cases, it gives us reason to look at the flu as something that we don’t have to just suffer through. Knowledge is power and there have always been many misconceptions about this annoying yet potentially deadly virus and now is the time to put some of those to bed, once and for all.
You can catch the flu by getting the vaccine
False – The virus in the vaccine has actually been deactivated (killed) and so cannot infect you with the flu. What it does contain is enough information to trigger the body’s immune response resulting in the production of antibodies. So, when your body does come in contact with the live virus, it will already know how to fight it off. Keeping you healthy while your antibodies do the hard work.
The flu is just a bad cold
False – Although the flu and the common cold share many of the same symptoms they are caused by different viruses. Typically, flu symptoms develop much more quickly and you may feel much more unwell in a short period of time. A cold cannot develop into the flu but the flu may develop into more serious illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
I already had the vaccine last year so I don’t need it again
False – Flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with the rapidly adapting flu virus. You may be protected from a certain prevalent strain from last year, but your antibodies may not be ready to protect you from a different strain this year. A flu jab offers the best protection against circulating flu strains so it is worth getting a vaccine every year to protect yourself against flu.
You can catch the flu by going out with wet hair
False – Unlike what we all heard growing up, leaving the house with wet hair may be uncomfortable but it won’t give you the flu. Wet hair does not make you more susceptible to catching the flu, the flu is caused by a virus and in order to catch an infection, you must be exposed to that infectious agent such as a cough from an infected person.
I’m fit and healthy, I don’t need to take the vaccine
False – Complications from the flu can happen to anyone, not just older and more vulnerable people. Anyone can be at risk. It is also important to protect yourself in order to protect others – you are infectious before you experience symptoms and you may spread the virus to family members, friends, colleagues or people in the wider community without even knowing it who may be more vulnerable than you and thus more likely to experience serious complications. By getting a flu jab you are contributing to community herd immunity, protecting the most vulnerable.
It’s dangerous for pregnant women to have the vaccine
False – Quite the opposite actually! You are more likely to get the flu and experience a higher chance of flu-related complications during pregnancy due to a weakened immune system. Studies have shown that the flu jab is safe at every stage of a woman’s pregnancy and protection is even passed on to your baby for the first few months of their life. Flu jabs in babies are from 6 months old so by the mother having a flu jab whilst pregnant, the baby is protected until they can have a flu jab themselves.