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Debunking common flu myths

September 25, 2019


At this time of year common misconceptions about the flu can seem as common as the flu iteself. Dr. Andrew Simor, Sunnybrook’s Chief of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases says, one of the most common myths is that the flu vaccine can make you sick. The vaccine is composed of only killed virus, there are no live virus particles there at all, so it’s impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to take effect so if you do get sick after your shot, it’s because you picked up the flu elsewhere. The most common side effect from the flu shot is a sore arm, something acetaminophen will help with. Dr. Simor says, decades of experience in millions of people shows the vaccine is safe. The flu season runs through the winter months but outdoor temperature has no effect, so sorry mom, forgetting to wear your hat actually doesn’t matter. The only way you can get influenza is by coming into contact with someone who is sick with sore throat, coughing, sneezing, they are then shedding the virus into the environement. While chicken soup may hit the spot, it won’t speed up recovery. And the old saying of starve a fever and feed a cold is really just that, an old saying. Thankfully, Dr. Simor says there is an effective antiviral medication called Tamiflu. If diagnosed and taken early enough, this pill can reduce the duration of symptoms and also cut the risk of complications from the flu, which can include severe lung infection. Dr. Simor says, Tamiflu is best for certain populations. The greatest value of this antiviral drug like Tamiflu is really for patients who have severe influenza, so older patients or patients with underlying diseases or people who are admitted to hospital. When it comes to other compounds like vitamin C, zinc and various herbal remedies, Dr. Simor says, none have been shown to really make a difference. So is it true that you’re actually contagious before flu symptoms even appear? It appears to start in the day before symptoms begin, peaks in the first one to two days of symptoms and then tails off over the next day or two. That means you should stay home at the first sign of symptoms to reduce the risk of making others sick. With Sunnyview, I’m Monica Matys.

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