Fact or Myth : The common cold and the flu – Mount Sheridan Medical Practice


Some people ask whether
you can catch the flu from having a flu vaccination. And this is a myth. There’s no way you can catch the flu from the flu vaccination. The vaccination that we
use is an inactivated virus which means the virus is dead. So we’re not giving you
an infection with the immunisation, so there’s
no way you can actually catch the virus. The issue is though, a
lot of people will say oh, they’ve had the flu needle and then a few days later got sick. And the trouble there is
that we give the flu needle in winter when there’s
a lot of colds and flus spreading around anyway. And so a lot of people will catch a cold, and it just happens to be a few days after the flu needle. But the flu needle itself
can’t give you influenza. Some people say young people don’t need to get the flu needle. And I’d probably put this as a fact. If you’re young and
healthy, you don’t need to get the flu needle,
but if you want to prevent yourself from catching the flu, potentially missing time off work and being sick for a week, then you’re certainly able
to get the flu needle. And it can help you stay
healthy during winter. Some people ask if flu symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms. And the answer is yes. In fact, it’s more commo n with influenza than in the common cold to
get gastrointestinal symptoms like feeling nauseous or even vomiting. So it is a common part of influenza. Some people will talk about stomach flu, and really they’re talking
about a viral gastroenteritis. So if your only symptoms are things like diarrhoea and vomiting,
that’s not influenza. But, if you’ve got cough, runny nose, fevers, aches and pains,
and you’re feeling a little bit sick in the stomach, then that all can be due to influenza. Pregnant can’t get the flu needle. Well, this is very much a myth. The flu needle has been given
to lots of pregnant women, and it’s been shown to be perfectly safe. More importantly, we know that women when they’re pregnant are more at risk of
getting severe influenza. And so getting the flu
needle in your pregnancy is the best way to protect
yourself and your unborn child against becoming very unwell
during your pregnancy, which is a risk to your
pregnancy and your child. Some people say you can avoid the flu by washing your hands regularly. Well, this is an absolute fact. By washing your hands at
least five times a day, you can almost half the
risk of getting influenza. So it’s a very simple
way to reduce your risk of influenza. If you can’t wash your
hands, then using the antibacterial washes or
wipes is another option to reduce your risk. People ask if you get the flu, then did the influenza vaccine not work. This is a more complex question. The answer is yes and no. So, sometimes we give the flu needle. If you’ve already been exposed
to the influenza virus, then you may still get the flu because the flu needle
takes one to two weeks to start working. So you can get a flu after
you’ve had the flu needle. But a lot of people though
often think they’ve caught the flu after an immunisation, but in fact, what they’ve
caught is a common cold. It can be very hard to tell the two apart with absolute certainty
without doing tests to prove what infection you’ve got. And the last issue is that the flu needle isn’t 100% effective. We know that it probably
only reduces your risk by about a half in terms of getting influenza
during the winter season. So the answer is yes, you
can get the flu after you get the influenza virus vaccine, but it does reduce your
risk of getting the flu. So the question is whether
getting the flu vaccine will compromise your immune
system over the longer term. And are you then more at
risk of getting influenza in the future? Well, the answer is no. The evidence is that if you
get the flu vaccine every year, if fact, in subsequent years, you’re still slightly less
likely to get influenza than most people who
never got the flu vaccine in the first place. And the other important point is that you don’t want to get influenza. Influenza is a severe disease. For a healthy young
person, that might mean they’re just in bed for
a week and then recover. But if you’re someone who’s
at risk of severe disease, there’s a mortality associated
with getting influenza. So the first point
in that I wouldn’t want to get influenza. Second point being, if
you get the flu vaccine, you will still get ongoing
protection against influenza. But your best protection
is getting the flu needle every year. ‘Cause the flu virus changes. Each year, there are different strains that are circulating around
that are the most likely strains to cause illness, so we change the vaccine every
year to match those strains. And the vaccine that you
get starts to wear off over time, so the best option
is boosting it every year. Some people ask if you have a
high fever for one or two days with the flu, does that
mean you need antibiotics? And the answer is not necessarily. Influenza is a severe
disease where you often are going to be sick for up to
seven days with the illness. So the fever by itself isn’t an indication for antibiotics. But if you’ve got the flu, and you’re feeling a bit sicker, you’ve got ongoing fevers, you’re coughing a lot, and you’re unwell, that would be a sign to
me to go and get checked whether you’ve got a
complication of influenza. So influenza increases
your risk of pneumonia. And as a doctor, we can
listen to your chest and make sure that you’ve don’t have one of the complications of influenza. If you develop pneumonia,
that would be an indication for antibiotics in that situation. But unfortunately, influenza
is a severe disease where you’ll have fevers
for a number of days. That by itself doesn’t need antibiotics. But it’s hard for you to
know whether you’ve got pneumonia or other infections. So if you’re feeling really unwell, you should come to your
doctor and get checked.

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