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Healthy Habits

Seven Common Myths You May Have Heard About the Flu

Find out the facts about the flu with our flu myth busters.
5 min read
January 5, 2021
Dr. Jill Lundstrom
Board-Certified Pediatrician
Dr. Jill earned her MD at the University of Massachusetts. She believes that all children deserve access to quality healthcare to learn and thrive.

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If you have ever had the flu, you know just how awful it can feel. No one likes feeling sick or having a family member catch the flu. Many people have questions because there is a lot of confusing information floating around about the flu. We’re here to bust the most common flu myths and help you feel confident about protecting your family. 

1. MYTH: You can get the flu from a flu shot.

FACT: No. Flu vaccines cannot cause the flu. 

Flu shots are made from dead viruses, or the vaccine is made from a single protein, which is only a very small part of the virus. These viruses will not make you sick. A flu vaccine from a nasal spray has weakened live viruses, but the vaccine will not cause illness. A flu vaccine from a shot or a nasal spray will not cause the flu.

2. MYTH: Healthy people don’t need to get a flu shot.

FACT: Every adult and every child (over the age of six months) should get the flu shot every year.

It is especially important for older people and people with chronic illnesses to get the flu shot. But, healthy young people should also get vaccinated every year for the flu. Getting the flu shot helps young people protect older people in their lives, like grandparents, teachers, and neighbors. It also prevents young people from getting very sick. Although it is rare, children can get very sick from the flu and end up in the hospital. Last year 188 children died of the flu. The flu shot can help prevent this. 

The CDC recommends that everyone older than six months, including pregnant women, get vaccinated for the flu every year. 

3. MYTH: I got the flu vaccine last year, so I don’t need it again this year.

FACT: To protect yourself and others from the flu, you must get the vaccine every year

The vaccine does not last forever - it becomes less effective after several months. Also, its formula changes each year to protect against the specific viruses circulating that season.

4. MYTH: I got the flu even though I had my shot, so the vaccine must not work.

FACT: Even if you get sick, the vaccine does work

Many people believe they have the flu, but they may have a cold, allergies, or another virus different than the flu. It's also possible for a person to be exposed to the flu before the vaccine kicks in since it takes up to one week to be effective, or a person can catch a strain of flu that isn't protected by the vaccine.

People who get sick with the flu after having the flu shot almost always experience milder symptoms than those who skip the shot. Getting the flu shot may help keep you out of the hospital even if you do get sick

5. MYTH: You can't spread the flu if you're feeling well.

FACT: You can spread the flu without even knowing it. 

About 20% to 30% of people with the flu have no symptoms, and they can get people around them sick.

6. MYTH: The flu is just a bad cold.

FACT: The flu is different than a bad cold. 

Influenza (the flu) is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and death, especially for people at high-risk, such as infants and the elderly. A cold is a different virus, which usually does not get as bad. While they have similar symptoms like a stuffy nose, the flu is usually accompanied by a fever and can lead to hospitalization much more often than a cold. 

The flu kills anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people in the U.S. and sends about 200,000 people to the hospital each year.

  1. MYTH: You can take antibiotics for the flu.

FACT: Antibiotics do not work on viruses. 

Antibiotics do not help with the flu. Antibiotics treat different types of illnesses that are caused by bacteria. Since the flu is caused by a virus (not a bacteria), antibiotics will not help with the flu.

To learn more about the flu, read our recent blog What You Need to Know About Flu Season this Year or Is it Allergies, the Flu, or COVID-19? 

You can also join our weekly Ask a Doctor webinars to ask our providers your flu and other health questions. Register here.

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A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
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A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.