USA Today‘s Liz Szabo talked to infectious disease and vaccine safety experts about some of the common misconceptions people have about the flu and the vaccine — this in response to a recent Consumer Reports survey that found only 30 percent of people think this year’s flu shot is safe.
Misinformation about flu shots runs rampant, meanwhile influenza kills more people in developed countries than any other vaccine-preventable disease, a Wake Forest pediatrician told Szabo. In the U.S., it sends 200,000 people to the hospital and kills 30,000 a year.
5 Myths about the flu:
1. You can catch the flu from a flu shot: Nope, the flu shot is a dead virus, says the CDC, so if you get sick after a shot, it’s a coincidence.
2. The flu is a bad cold: Totally different virus strains. The flu is more likely to cause fever, body aches, nausea and vomiting, and can lead to more serious complications like bacterial infections.
3. This year’s flu shot (H1N1 and all) is riskier than previous years: Not at all, it’s made in the same way as every other year.
4. It’s for old people: Last year 90 percent of the people who died from the flu were younger than 30.
5. Suspect chemicals like mercury are in flu shots: Some flu shots kept in multi-dose vials do use thimerosal as a preservative (apparently single-dose and flu mists do not). But according to chief of infectious disease at Children’s Hospital of Philidelphia, thimerosal is ethyl mercury, which has not been shown to cause harm. It’s methyl mercury that can cause brain damage. This isn’t in vaccines.
Two more myths I came across researching an article on cold + flu — cutting down on dairy won’t affect your child’s congestion (unless they have a unique reaction to dairy), and you can’t “catch” a cold or flu from being cold. Of course bundle those kiddies up, but grandma’s idea that a wet head will get you sick doesn’t hold up.
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