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Influenza and Home Health – Debunking Flu Myths

In recent years there has been much debate about vaccinations.  Misconceptions and myths often swirl and people form their opinions on whether they feel they are effective and safe.  The flu vaccine, in particular, is one that people either love or hate. But for elderly home health patients or those with compromised immune systems, getting the flu shot could be lifesaving.  According to the CDC, recent studies show approximately 85% of flu-related deaths were that of seniors over the age of 65.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month! To celebrate wanted to help clear up a few of the misconceptions that are often stated about the influenza vaccine.

Myth: The Flu Vaccine might give you the Flu.

Truth: The flu vaccine contains either inactivated or severely weakened virus’, both of which cannot give you the flu. While not the flu itself, some may feel generally “unwell” and may experience side effects like headache, nausea or a low-grade fever. A person may feel sick from the side effects but has not contracted the flu from the flu shot.

Myth: The Flu Vaccine can cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Truth: The theory linking Alzheimer’s to the flu vaccine was based on claims by a South Carolina doctor who is no longer licensed. On the contrary, studies have shown a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s in patients who were vaccinated against diphtheria/tetanus, polio, and influenza.

Myth: Flu shots are pointless to get after November.

Truth: While the CDC recommends getting it before the end of October, the flu vaccination is beneficial at any point the flu is circulating – even into January or later.

Myth: The “Stomach Flu” and the “Flu” are the same.

Truth: While the symptoms of influenza can sometimes include an upset stomach, influenza (or “The Flu”) and the “Stomach Flu” are not the same thing.  Influenza is a viral infection affecting the respiratory system.  The “Stomach Flu” is an illness of the GI tract with causes that range from food, bacteria, parasites among others.

Myth: The Flu Vaccine causes heart problems or strokes.

Truth: There is no evidence of the flu shot causing heart or vascular disorders.  On the contrary, studies have shown reduced risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events in individuals who received the flu vaccine.

Myth: The Flu Vaccine doesn’t work! I got the vaccine and still got sick.

Truth: Getting the flu vaccine does not provide 100% protection against the virus.  The chances of getting it will be reduced as well as the severity of symptoms if you do catch it.  If a person comes down with the flu shortly after receiving the vaccine, it is likely that they had already been exposed to the virus.  The vaccine takes up to 2 weeks to take effect and only a few days for the virus to incubate after being exposed.

Myth: I can protect myself from the flu by eating right and washing my hands.

Truth: It’s always good to eat healthily and practice good hand hygiene.  However, doing so cannot solely prevent contracting the flu.  The flu shot is the best way to prevent contracting the virus.

Myth: I would get a flu vaccine, but it takes too long to get an appointment with my doctor.

Truth: Your doctor isn’t the only place to get a flu shot! Flu vaccines are given at many locations from clinics and doctors’ offices to grocery stores and pharmacies.  Find your nearest flu shot location at https://vaccinefinder.org/.

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