Flu truths and mistruths

This is a public service announcement.

Get your flu vaccine if you haven’t already. It isn’t too late. You still have time. And it will still be effective.

Let’s take this opportunity to dispel some myths about the flu (and focus on the truths). First, the truths:

1. It’s bad this year. Boston Mayor Tom Menino, for example, has declared a state of emergency in Boston. Our hospital’s emergency department is packed.  Boston has seen more than 700 confirmed cases (there were about 70 cases all of last season). It’s real and it’s everywhere.

2. The flu shot works. And it’s not too late to get one. The flu shot does not cause the flu. You may feel a little achy (that means it’s working) and your arm may be sore. Trust me, these symptoms are worth it if it means avoiding the real thing.

3. The flu is caused by a virus called ‘influenza.’ A GI bug with vomiting and diarrhea is not the flu. Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Congestion
4. The following folks are at particularly high risk of having complications as a result of the flu. That is to say, if people with these conditions get the flu, it can be particularly bad. They include:
  • Kids younger than 5 (especially under 2 years)
  • Older adults (over 65 years)
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic conditions, including asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, weakened immune systems, morbid obesity

5. Stay home. If you think you have the flu or a flu-like illness, stay home. Seriously, stay home.

6. Keep to your good habits:

  • Cover your nose when you sneeze and cover your mouth when you cough. And don’t cough or sneeze into your hand (which you then promptly use to touch the doorknob or hold on the banister…)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Wash your hands
  • Sleep
  • Stay active
  • Stay hydrated
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Manage your stress

More info about influenza is available from the Centers for Disease Control.

Stay healthy, please.


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