10 flu myths

For those of you just tuning in (or hiding under a rock): We're in the middle of a particularly horrible flu season. Here are 10 things you might be hearing about the flu, that are, well, just wrong.

By Ellen Jean Hirst, Chicago Tribune reporter

January 17, 2013


I waited too long. It isn't worth it anymore for me to get the flu shot.

Flu season still has many a week to thrive. It typically lasts from December through March. Getting a flu shot now will protect you for the rest of the season.

I already had the flu this season, so I don't need a flu shot.

If you've had the flu, you'll be protected from that strain, but several other strains abound. The flu shot protects against three.

My kid stayed home sick with the flu today, so I got a flu shot.

The flu vaccine doesn't protect you same-day. It takes two weeks to reach maximum effectiveness for the season.

I didn't get the flu shot, because it could give me the flu.

The flu shot does not give you the flu. The vaccine has a dead — inactive — virus, so it can't make you sick.

I hate needles. I'm too scared to get the flu shot.

Needle-fearing healthy folks ages 2 to 50 can get a nasal spray vaccine, which has a weakened virus. The virus is so weak that you can't get sick from it either.

If I wear a scarf or a mask, I probably won't get the flu.

This generally will not prevent you from getting the flu. Though it's recommended that you don't touch your face too much, wearing a mask or scarf usually won't prevent the flu.

I had the flu, but I feel better today. I must not be contagious anymore.

You are contagious up to seven days after the start of your flu illness. You also are contagious 24 hours before you show symptoms.

I got the vaccine, so I won't get the flu.

You could still get the flu even if you've had the vaccine. You're a lot less likely to get it, though.

I'm pregnant, so I can't get the flu vaccine.

Pregnant women, especially, should get the flu shot.

I got the flu vaccine, so I don't need to do anything else.

You should still be washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, coughing into an elbow, drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough sleep, eating healthfully and exercising regularly. And even then you might get it.

SOURCES: Chicago Department of Public Health, Medical Director Dr. Julie Morita