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6 flu myths - busted

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 infections.

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 of influenza.

Myth #2: You can catch the flu from the flu vaccine.

This is a common, yet false, belief.

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 side-effect!

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:

● Fever

● Chills

● Muscle aches

● Cough

● Congestion

● Runny nose

● Headaches

● Fatigue or weakness

● Loss of appetite

● Nausea

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 complications.

Myth #5: Pregnant women shouldn’t get vaccinated

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.

You may also be interested in the following:

Certain groups urged to get influenza vaccine this flu season
4 Reasons to get the flu vaccination this year

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Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.