Don’t let the flu get you down this season. According to the American Lung Association, one in five Americans will get the flu every year. Influenza is more severe than a cold. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, and can even be life threatening in the most severe cases. The flu usually starts abruptly and can affect the entire body, causing a high fever, cough and body aches. How much do you know about the flu? Take this quick true or false quiz to test your flu knowledge.

  • Antibiotics can be used to treat the flu.
  • False. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat bacterial infections. The flu is caused by a virus. If the flu is suspected, see your healthcare provider immediately. Antiviral drugs can shorten the course of the disease and make symptoms milder, but these drugs must be started within the first two days to be most effective.
  • The best defense for prevention of the flu is taking a multi-vitamin.
  • False. The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting a yearly flu shot for everyone over 6 months. This is the single most important step in flu prevention. Getting the flu vaccine can reduce your chance of the getting the flu by approximately 80 percent.
  • It is useless to get the flu shot if the flu season has already started.
  • False. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu season can start as early as October and last through May. The peak activity in the United States is usually in January or February, but even getting a flu shot late in the season can protect you. If more people get vaccinated, it slows the spread of the virus. The flu shot and the nasal spray both cause our bodies to develop antibodies in about two weeks.
  • If I got a flu shot last year, I don’t need another one.
  • False. According to the Centers for Disease Control, multiple studies have shown that a person’s immunity to the flu virus declines over time. Also, flu viruses are constantly changing, so every year experts try to predict which strains are going to be the most prevalent in the upcoming flu season. The 2013-2014 vaccine will protect against two influenza A viruses (H1N1, the swine flu that caused the 2009 pandemic, and H3N2), and an influenza B virus.
  • You have to get a shot to be vaccinated for the flu.
  • False. If you are healthy, not pregnant, and between the ages of 2-49, you may be able to get the nasal spray flu vaccine. It differs from the flu shot in that it is made with a live weakened flu virus. The flu shot vaccine is made from an inactivated (killed) virus, and is usually given in the deltoid muscle of the arm. The flu shot is recommended for everyone over 6 months.
  • You can spread the flu virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • True. You can spread the flu after contracting the virus before you actually have symptoms. You are contagious for three to four days after symptoms began.
  • The flu shot can cause you to have the flu.
  • False. The flu shot cannot cause you to get the flu, but there can be some minor side effects from the vaccine. The flu shot can cause some redness, soreness, or swelling at the injection site, a low-grade fever, or body aches. The viruses in the flu shot are killed so you cannot actually get the flu. The nasal spray can cause runny nose, headache, wheezing, cough, body aches, fever or sore throat.
  • The flu shot could help prevent a heart attack.
  • True. According to a recent Australian study published in the journal Heart, the flu vaccination reduced the risk of a heart attack in the patients studied by 45 percent. This is just one more reason to get the flu shot.
  • The flu shot is safe for everyone.
  • False. If you are allergic to chicken eggs, have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, have any fever or illness or have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, you should not get the flu vaccine.
  • Getting the flu shot is all you can do to prevent getting the flu.
  • False. Taking steps to build your immunity by eating a healthy diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables, getting enough rest, exercising, managing stress, and avoiding tobacco, drugs, and limiting alcohol consumption can lower you risk of getting the flu. Preventing the spread of germs can also help keep you healthy. The flu virus is harbored in the respiratory tract of an infected person. These germs are spread by droplets from person to person. The droplets can be directly inhaled from an infected person that is coughing or sneezing. When a person sneezes or coughs, the flu virus can actually travel up to three feet. You can also infect yourself by coming into contact with contaminated objects then touching your nose or mouth. Flu viruses can live up to 12 hours on clothes, towels, and tissues and up to 48 hours on hard, nonporous surfaces. To help prevent infection, wash your hands prior to eating or touching your face or mouth. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and face, especially when in public. Door handles, grocery baskets, stair rails, telephones, computer keyboards, pens, etc., can all be contaminated by sick people who have sneezed or coughed into their hand then touched these shared objects.

Now that you have armed yourself with the knowledge to prevent the flu this season, begin taking the necessary steps to keep you and your family healthy for the winter.  Speak with your healthcare provider about getting the flu shot.  Boost your immunity for all illnesses by getting plenty of rest, being physically active, eating nutritious food, and managing stress effectively.

About Martha Smith

Martha Smith resides in Hazelhurst, Miss., a small community south of Jackson, and has been a member of the NBHA for 15 years, competing actively in Mississippi District 05. In 2006, she earned the Open 3D Mid-South National championship and has qualified for numerous NBHA World Shows. Smith now serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi School of Nursing in the Family Nurse Practitioner program, teaching RNs how to become nurse practitioners.

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