Having the flu is inconvenient and
unpleasant at best, and dangerous at worst. Unfortunately, in society’s quest
to share and seek information about how to avoid and “cure” the flu, we’ve
created a host of myths about influenza and the influenza vaccine.
At Capital Chemist, there are a few
questions that our community pharmacists regularly receive about influenza.
Here, we’ll cover some of the biggest influenza myths, and the best ways to
avoid and treat the flu.
Myth #1: Antibiotics can cure the flu
Antibiotics are used to destroy or
slow the growth of bacteria, which is why they’re used to treat bacterial
The flu is caused by viruses, not by bacteria. Therefore, antibiotics are not at all
effective in treating the flu.
The only instance in which
antibiotics may be prescribed to someone with the flu is if they’ve developed a
bacterial infection (like bacterial pneumonia or sinusitis) as a complication
Myth #2: You can catch the flu from the flu
This is a common, yet false,
The influenza vaccination is made from an inactivated portion of the
surface of the virus, which means that you won’t get the flu from a flu shot.
One of the reasons that people
believe this myth is because they, or someone they know, has received an
influenza vaccine and then become sick.
The flu vaccine is developed based
on research that aims to predict which influenza strains will circulate in a
given year. For this reason, it doesn’t protect you from all strains of influenza. However, it will protect you from the
strains that are most likely to be transmitted this year. The flu vaccine also
won’t protect you from other illnesses, such as a cold or cough, or
coronaviruses like Covid19.
Getting sick after receiving a flu
shot doesn’t mean that the flu shot made you sick, it simply means that you
have contracted a different virus. It’s an example of bad timing, not a
That being said, the flu vaccine
does take about two weeks to take effect, meaning that you won’t be protected
against influenza during that period.
Myth #3: The flu isn’t that serious
Some people think that the flu is
just like a bad cold, but this isn’t the case.
In fact, the flu can be deadly for
some people. In 2017, there were 1,255 deaths in Australia due to influenza. Some groups are more at
risk than others, including babies, people over 65, pregnant women, or people
who have a compromised immune system. While the majority of us will begin to
feel better within a week or two, these people are more likely to have the flu turn
into something more serious.
Flu symptoms are a little different from the common cold. They are far more debilitating and tend to
start quite suddenly. Influenza symptoms include:
Myth #4: The flu vaccine doesn’t work
Once again, this myth was probably
started by someone who was vaccinated against the flu and then got sick. And
once again, it simply isn’t true.
Practising good hygiene and getting
a flu shot are the two best things that you can do to protect yourself from
influenza. According to the World Health Organization, “vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection and
severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses”.
People who are vaccinated against
influenza are less likely to be infected than those who are not vaccinated.
However, keep in mind that last
year’s flu vaccination won’t protect you this year. The flu virus regularly
changes, so a new vaccine is formulated every year. That’s why we recommend a
vaccination every 12 months or so to keep you protected.
It’s also important to remember
that getting vaccinated doesn’t just protect you, but it also helps to protect
the people around you — particularly those who are more vulnerable to flu
Myth #5: Pregnant women shouldn’t get
Unfortunately, pregnant women and
babies are two of the groups most likely to be hospitalized with flu.
Pregnant women are at a much higher risk than other adults of complications and possible hospitalisation.
The influenza vaccination not only protects you, but it also protects your
baby. Babies under six months are too young to be vaccinated, so getting
vaccinated during pregnancy is the best method of protection.
The Australian Government’s advice is that influenza vaccinations are recommended for every pregnancy
and at any stage of their pregnancy.
Myth #5: Getting a flu vaccination is a hassle
Getting the flu shot doesn’t have
to be inconvenient or time-consuming. At Capital Chemist, our flu vaccination service takes only a few minutes, and often there’s often
no waiting time at all. The service is completed in-store, in a private
consulting room, and usually doesn’t require an appointment. Fees and
conditions apply, so speak to your local pharmacist about whether a flu
vaccination is right for you.