8 Things you thought you knew about the flu

Flu season is upon us. Many will stay at home with their runny noses, sore throats and sad little coughs. Others will push through the misery, but will subsequently infect all their co-workers. And for sure many will have some grandmothers’ wisdom, or some google results telling them how to prevent or cure the flu. Well, look no further. Time to dive into 8 things you thought you knew about flu, but guess what: you are probably wrong…

1. You can cure the flu with antibiotics

Really? We’re not getting back in to this right? Read the previous blogs! Nope, not doing it again. … Ok, just this time, the summary: the flu is a virus (influenzavirus), antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. There. Done. Can we drop this now please?

2. You can’t get immune for the flu

Hmm, difficult fact. Because basically you can. For your immune system to recognize a virus, picture that they need to recognize a 100 digit code (think of ten back-to-back phone numbers). If all 100 digits are recognized, you don’t get sick. If your immune system has seen the virus before, it will remember all those digits easily and rapidly. But there is a difficulty with the flu, the virus changes a lot every season. As if you are still wearing soft denims and velvet dresses. Hello? Soooo 2016. When only one digit is different, the puzzle is solved rather quickly, you get a runny nose for one day and that’s it. But what if ten digits (one phone number) are different? Then it takes time. You can get immune for the flu that you had, but you might encounter a different one this year.

3. The flu shot works/the flu shot doesn’t work

Both facts are true, so both fact are false. I know, it’s a mindf@#k, crazy world we live in. Again, the flu changes every season. The flu shot is a calculated guess on what viruses will be targeting us this year, giving you about five different flu virus digit combinations for your immune system to remember. Seeing that it’s a guess, you can still get the flu. However, with the flu shot, your immune system will have a lot more digits right at the first try. This means that if you had the flu shot and still get the flu, you’re less sick then you would have been without the shot. It is like coming to a party in a black dress, but everyone is wearing colored padded dresses. At least you wore a dress.

4. The flu shot gives you the flu

The whole idea of a vaccine is that you get immune without getting the disease. So no, this is not true. The viruses in the flu shot are dead or better, inactivated. They just serve as a practice for your immune system. They can’t do anything else. You know someone who got the flu after a shot? Well that’s obviously possible, since you’re surrounded by viruses.

5. H1N1 was a hoax organized by the pharmaceutical industry

The whole H1N1 hysteria resulted from the fact that this particular virus had a lot of different digits. People would get very sick, very fast and could (and did) die. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies benefitted in the end, but the threat was real. No hoax.

For the real nerds (like me): the H and N stand for the proteins “Hemagglutinin” and “Neuramidase”, they live on the surface of the virus and differ all the time (the 100 digits). 

6. Everyone has had the real flu at least once in their life

My husband would ask: what is real? But he is in that philosophical stage in life that all close-to-forty-year-old men are in. So, let’s stick with my answer: everyone has had the real flu? No. N. O. Definitely no. The real flu makes you so sick! Just ask the people that suffered the Spanish Flu in 1918. Oh, wait you can’t, they died.

7. You can catch the flu by going outside in the cold with a short skirt

That’s at least what my mother tried to convince me off in order to get me to wear trousers. Although a short skirt can get you in all sorts of trouble (no, not deserved), it won’t give you a higher risk of getting the flu. You can get the flu if you, with your mini skirt on, go to a bar with a lot of people that cough in your face or, better yet, put their face on your face.

8. Chicken soup cures the flu

Well, maybe partly true. Just the fact that someone takes care of you might make you feel better. And the warm liquid in your throat helps as well. And a foot-massage. And a Friends marathon. And chocolate. But not really.

So let’s stop whining and accept things as they are. Stay at home not because you’re so sick (“man flu” doesn’t count) but because you don’t want to infect others. Cough in your hand, not somebody’s face. Get the flu shot and be happy you can get it. Put on your mini skirt (yes, also the guys can if they want) and dance until this season is over.

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