Chances are, you've been sick with the flu at least once in your lifetime. This viral illness goes around each year, generally reaching its peak during the winter months. Between the fever, cough, muscle aches, and congestion it causes, the flu can be quite serious -- particularly for those who are young, old, or have weakened immune systems. To protect yourself and your loved ones, it's important to be educated about influenza. In particular, make sure you don't fall prey to these common flu myths.
Myth: You don't need the flu vaccine if you're healthy.
The flu vaccine might be more important for those who are immune-compromised or overly prone to infection, but that does not mean you should forgo a flu shot if you're in generally good health. By protecting yourself with the flu vaccine, you're also helping to protect anyone you may come into contact with for whom the flu might be more serious (or even deadly.) You never know if someone who waits on you at the store, delivers your mail, or works in the cubicle next to you is immune-compromised. By getting vaccinated and decreasing your chances of coming down with the flu, you're reducing your chances of passing it on to people you know. Plus, getting the flu vaccine will mean fewer days of missed work and a lot less time spent feeling miserable.
The flu virus is always mutating and chancing, so each year's flu virus provides immunity against the most recent, common strains. So make sure you get vaccinated every year; last year's vaccine won't protect you adequately this year.
Myth: The flu is just a bad cold.
Though both cause respiratory symptoms, influenza and the common cold are quite different. The common cold might make you feel under the weather for a few days, but the flu can cause more serious illness and may last up to several weeks. The flu can also lead to pneumonia and other more serious complications. Here are some indications that what you're experiencing is the flu, rather than a cold:
- You feel extremely fatigued and exhausted (not just a little tired)
- You have muscle aches and pains
- You have a fever or chills
- You have a headache
Why is it important to know if you have the flu or the cold? If you're sure you just have a cold, you'll probably be able to push through and keep working. But if you have the flu, you should certainly stay home, relax, and be prepared to seek medical attention if your fever won't subside, you have a tough time swallowing, you experience shortness of breath, or you feel dizzy.
Myth: Taking antibiotics will help you recover from the flu.
The flu is a viral illness. Antibiotics are only effective for fighting off bacteria. So, don't be tempted to take those extra antibiotics that are left in your cupboard, and don't be insulted if your doctor won't prescribe you antibiotics for your symptoms. They won't help. If you are seriously ill with the flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to help slow replication of the virus so your body can fight it off more easily. However, it's important to remember that this won't make you feel better overnight -- though it may shorten the duration of your symptoms.
Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.
When you have the flu and the fever it brings with it, you may not feel like eating much. But contrary to what this popular adage suggests, starving yourself will do more harm than good. Your body needs nutrients in order to fight off the flu virus, so try to eat at least a little. Some bland, nutrient-rich foods to try include scrambled eggs, yogurt, and lean chicken. Any colorful fruits and veggies that you can bear to consume will be helpful, too. Also make sure you're getting plenty of liquids -- Gatorade and tea are good choices -- to keep yourself hydrated.
Many people recover from the flu just fine as long as they rest and stay hydrated. However, the flu can be dangerous -- and even deadly. So get in touch with your doctor if you start having trouble breathing, experience chest pain, become confused, or develop a fever that won't break.
For more information, contact a company like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc.