Facts and Ridiculous Myths About the Flu

The flu season is upon us, and many nurses are forced to get the flu vaccination or face termination by their employer. The flu vaccine is not a guarantee that we won't get the flu. Scientists must be diligent every year to track down the mutations that the virus has made, to get the strain for the vaccine correct. 

Here we will help to dispel some of the myths about the flu and offer some advice to nurses to prevent contraction of the virus. 


Contrary to popular belief you cannot catch the flu from the vaccine. 
The vaccine is made from inactive virus. The flu vaccine doesn't make you sick,  It does take over a week to gain protection from the virus and nurses hear patients continually say that they don't get the flu vaccine because it can make you sick....simply not true!

Another myth is that if you're healthy you don't need the flu shot.  Although those most at risk from the flu are the very young, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised, all people can benefit from the flu vaccine.  It is recommended that all healthcare workers obtain a flu shot to protect themselves and their patients. 
It’s true that the flu vaccination is routinely recommended for children ages six months to 19 years old, pregnant women, and anyone over age 49.

Another silly myth is that getting the flu shot is all you need to protect yourself from the flu. There are many things you can do to protect yourself from the flu. Handwashing is paramount, as is avoiding people who are infected and talking to your doctor about anti-viral medication if you think you have already been exposed to the virus. 

"The flu is a severe cold." This is another ridiculous myth.  People don't die from a cold. 200,000 people are hospitalized each year from the flu, in the United States alone and 36,000 people die. If you've ever had the flu, you know that the symptoms of the flu and horrible and can leave you incapacitated. They don't even resemble a severe cold. 


"You're not contagious anymore once you feel better and have no symptoms."  Up to 30% of those who carry the flu virus are asymptomatic, so this is obviously not true.  

"It's not necessary to get the flu vaccine each year."  Another common myth. The virus mutates every year, so the vaccines you've received in previous years are not effective against the new strain. To be immune from this years strain, you must be vaccinated. 

"Feed a cold and starve a fever."  An old wives tale that's simply not true.  If you have a fever it's important to replenish the fluid you have lost, so you don't become dehydrated. Starving yourself will do nothing, nor will eating too much. 

"The flu is caught by going out in cold, damp weather without proper warm clothing. It can also be caught by having wet hair or sitting by a draft."   Another old wives tale. My Mother used to tell me that I was "going to catch my death of cold" by being out in the rain without a coat. 
Because flu season is during the winter months, many people still believe that weather and the flu are related.  This has more to do with the fact that people spend most of their time indoors in close quarters, so the virus is spread easily. 

"Chicken soup is the perfect food for the flu."  I think we all wish this were true because there's something romantic about chicken soup when you're sick.  But, apart from the warm liquid feeling great to your sore throat, chicken soup does nothing for the flu, and it does nothing to speed recovery. 

"A flu that lasts more than a couple of days may require antibiotics."  Here we go again with the nonsense.  It's crucial that we don't abuse antibiotics. If you take them when they're not needed, they're not effective when you do need them. Your body will build up immunity, and they will be a complete waste of time. 

Antibiotics are not effective for viruses. Although it is important to be checked if you're not recovering from the flu within a few days, because some people can get secondary bacterial infections because of the flu. 

Silly medical myths can get in the way of flu prevention, so educating yourself about the flu can be beneficial to nurses and their patients. Some of the things you can do besides getting vaccinated against the virus are easy and cheap but very efficient. 

Keep your body hydrated and stay away from junk food.  You need the vitamins and minerals that are provided from a balanced, healthy diet, to protect yourself from viruses that can make you sick. Load up on fruit, vegetables, and healthy proteins. 

Hospitals seem to be very busy during winter months so try to get as much rest as you can, to keep your immune system fighting nasty bugs effectively. 

If you plan on being in a confined space, take some Airborne and Zicam with you to protect yourself and keep up your immune system defenses.  Take your vitamins and essential oils. Carry hand sanitizer everywhere with you. Bath and Body Works has a grab bag of ten little bottles with all different fragrances. Keep your home and car clean. If you begin to feel ill, then slow down and rest as much as possible.

Humidifiers work very well to keep your mucus membranes moist when you're sick. Dry mucus membranes can be extremely irritating and lead to cracking and pain. Some even have aroma diffusers so they smell great and have a useful purpose. 

Discard your toothbrush after illness and always cough into a tissue or into your arm and not your hands. Wash your hands as often as possible. It's the single most important thing we can all do to prevent the spread of diseases and infections.

Do you have any silly old wives tales about the flu you'd like to share? Or maybe you have some additional tips to treat of prevent the flu that you'd like to add to help others? Comment below!