Clearing Up Misconceptions About the Flu

When it comes to the flu, it seems like everyone, from your mailman to your mother-in- law, has some advice about how to prevent and treat it. Although tens of millions of Americans will come down with the flu each year, much of the "common wisdom" shared about the flu isn't so wise at all. Here are five common myths and misconceptions about the flu—plus a healthy dose of the truth.

  • "A few bowls of chicken soup should do it." While a good bowl of chicken soup may be good for the soul—and may feel good on a sore or phlegmy throat—it does not contain any ingredients that can combat a viral infection.

  • "Once you are vaccinated, you don't have to worry about catching the flu." The flu shot is not 100% effective. Each year, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) select specific strains of the virus they believe will be particularly contagious for a given year. In years where the specific strains in the vaccine don't match the strains that actually go around, you are still at risk of catching the flu. Even if there is a good match,  the flu vaccine is only about 40-60% effective against the strains it immunizes you against. However, the CDC notes that, even if you do catch a strain you were vaccinated against, the immunity you built from getting vaccinated will .

While there are a lot of misconceptions about the flu, there are proven, concrete steps you can take to prevent infection. This includes getting the annual flu shot, washing your hands frequently and avoiding contact with people who have come down with the flu.

Anisha Bhadla