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Fact vs. Fiction: Flu Season Myths Debunked

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Flu Season Fact vs. Fiction Rido/fotolia

Uncovered sneezes and coughs. Kids sharing toys. People going to work with colds.

Flu season is right around the corner.

With the looming threat of getting sick all around us, it is essential to be prepared so you can ensure you and your family stay as healthy as possible. To kick things off, start by knowing what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to influenza.

1) Myth: The nasal spray flu vaccine is just as effective as the flu vaccine shot.

Fact: According to the CDC, the nasal spray flu vaccine is not effective this year. If you are considering getting vaccinated, make sure you ask your doctor for the shot, not the nasal spray to ensure you are protected.

Remember, getting the flu vaccine doesn’t just protect you, “it protects everyone in your family as well as the community around you,” said Dr. Mia Finkelston, medical director of the Online Care Group of physicians who see patients through LiveHealth Online.

2) Myth: Soup is a flu remedy.

Fact: Some warm chicken noodle soup is nice to sip when you’re sick and wrapped up in bed. Unfortunately, soup doesn’t actually help cure you of your sickness. It can however soothe a sore throat and provide your body with necessary fluids.

“If you do get the flu, drink as many fluids as you can,” Dr. Finkelston said. She also advised getting enough sleep and rest, and moving around a bit to get your circulation moving. “Even if you’re lying down, point and flex your feet, put socks on, or make a star angel on your bed. Moving around even just a little bit can help make you feel better and give you an energy boost.”

“When you start to feel better, don’t overdo it because you may have a setback. Your energy doesn’t get better all at once after the flu. If you think you’re ready to go back to work, try a half day or work from home to ease yourself back in,” Dr. Finkelston said.

3) Myth: The flu vaccine is enough to prevent the flu.

Fact: Protection from the flu takes far more than a shot.

“Flu prevention starts with your health habits,” Finkelston said.

Here are some of Dr. Finkelston’s top tips to maximize immunity:

  1. Enforce regular sleep habits.
  2. Eat healthy foods. Make sure you are getting a variety of vitamins. When you are eating vegetables and fruits, make sure they are fresh or in a can, not frozen.
  3. Exercise. Activity helps boost our immune systems.
  4. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you’re in a hurry, use hand sanitizer or a rough cloth or napkin to rub off your hands at least.
  5. Try not to touch your face. A lot of germs spread through mucus membranes, including the eyes, nose and mouth.
  6. Have medications available ahead of time so you are ready if you get sick. When you go to the drug store in the middle of flu season, they may not have everything you need.
  7. If you have a fever, don’t go to work. Rather than toughing it out, try working from home so your illness doesn’t spread to coworkers.

4) Myth: You have to see a doctor in person to discuss flu symptoms.

Fact: The CDC says that flu season spikes between December and February, encompassing the holiday season. When you are busy shopping for last-minute presents or prepping for a visit with your in-laws, it can be especially difficult to make an appointment to see a doctor in person when you or your family are ill.

One option is LiveHealth Online. This tool connects you to US-based board-certified doctors via video chat on a smartphone, tablet or laptop who are available 24/7, 365 days of the year.

During a session, a doctor can answer questions, assess your child’s condition (or yours!) and, in some states, prescribe medication if appropriate.

“Make sure you download and sign up for LiveHealth Online before flu season, so it is ready to go,” Dr. Finkelston said. “Doctors who see patients via LiveHealth Online can help go over your symptoms if you’re unsure whether you have the flu, help moms know what symptoms to look out for with their family, and prescribe medicine. LiveHealth Online is great for treatment and information around the flu.”

If you have any questions about the flu or the flu shot, try registering for LiveHealth Online to talk to a doctor on your own time.

5) Myth: Having the flu is no big deal.

Fact: Influenza can be more than just a bothersome cough and runny nose. The flu always carries the possibility of hospitalization and other severe complications. According to Harvard Health Publications, 36,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of the flu, and over 200,000 are hospitalized.

“It’s important to understand what to look for and know the symptoms. One of the biggest questions I get online is from patients who want to know the difference between a cold, flu and sinus infection,” Finkelston said.

With the flu, symptoms can include sudden onset of fever, aches, headache, runny nose, fatigue, cough, and upset stomach. The cold is more of a gradual progression of symptoms, starting with a scratchy throat, and then progressing. And a sinus infection will usually take longer, sometimes a week to 10 days, Finkelston said.

Now that you know the facts, keep yourself and your family healthy this flu season.

Reviewed September 14, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

This post was sponsored by: LiveHealth® Online Read more in Health Technology Insider

1) 10 Flu Myths. Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved September 12, 2016.

2) Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 12, 2016.

3) Top Seven Flu Myths Debunked.  UCSF Medical Center. Retrieved September 12, 2016.

4) How Online Doctor’s Appointments Can Help You With Your Busy Schedule. EmpowHER. Retrieved September 12, 2016.

5) Finkelston, Mia. Phone interview. October 13, 2016. 

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.