Coming down with the flu isn't a pleasant experience, nor is it a rare one. The CDC indicates that there have been between 9.3 million and 43 million cases of flu-related illness each year since 2010. It's not always mild, either. Statistics indicate that of those who get sick with the flu each year, 200,000 are hospitalized.
Despite all of its benefits, easy access to the internet has, unfortunately, allowed a lot of misinformation to spread on topics like influenza. It's not uncommon for patients to harbor an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of the flu and its dangers.
You can act as a source of clarity and reliable, medically agreed-upon information for your patients. The following flu facts are a good starting point for flu prevention for yourself your patients.
Debunking Some Vaccination Myths
When suggesting that patients should – like everyone – get their flu shot, be aware of the following circulating myths you might run into, and the scientifically-grounded, evidence-based answers that debunk these flu prevention falsehoods.
Myth: You can get the flu from the flu vaccine
Truth: Influenza is a living organism. It needs to be alive and strong enough to thrive in your body to make you sick. As referenced above, the CDC notes the following. Flu vaccines come in three forms. One form is as a live attenuated (weakened) virus (LAIV4) which is used as a nasal spray and which only replicates at the cooler nasal temperatures. The other forms, the shots, are made either from inactivated (killed) influenza vaccines [IIV] or from a single gene of the flu virus, not the virus itself. This is the case with the recombinant influenza vaccine [RIV]. Your body responds to these innocuous microbes by generating antibodies to fight off the real thing.
Myth: It's better to get the flu than to get a vaccination
Truth: The flu is a dangerous illness. While weathering it allows an individual to build immunity to a particular strain, this is neither the best nor the safest approach. Getting a vaccine and possibly evading a bout with the flu is a better bet than chancing it and ending up hospitalized. The CDC states, “millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. “
The Great Thing About Yearly Vaccination
Since different flu strains circulate each year, and your immunity wanes over time, it's recommended that you get a flu shot yearly. It's a minor inconvenience with a big potential benefit. While vaccination doesn't guarantee that you won't get the flu, it significantly improves your chances of avoiding it. Some studies also indicate that for those who have been vaccinated and still end up getting sick, the symptoms are less severe.
The Easiest Ways For Your Patients to Keep the Flu at Bay
Some of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of the flu are rooted in the right habits and good hygiene. For instance:
• Dedicated professionals are geared toward thinking that work comes first and that a little cough or a slight fever shouldn't demand a day off. The CDC and OSHA beg to differ. If you are sick, the official advice is to stay home until 24 hours after the fever has subsided.
• If you know someone has the flu or they appear to be ill, avoid coming into close contact with them until they're better!
• Like with so many other common viral and bacterial infections, proper hand hygiene and handwashing do wonders for flu prevention.
• Touching your face is an easy way to smuggle crafty germs in the direction of your mucous membranes, unknowingly depositing them in your nose, mouth or eyes where they can enter the body and make you ill. During flu season be extra vigilant about this common behavior.
• Be healthy! Good eating habits and regular exercise play an important role in disease prevention, including the flu.
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