Flu season basics: How to prevent the flu in your home

Dimock Center | 10/29/2008, 4:32 a.m.

Of course, regular exercise, a healthy diet and eight hours of sound sleep per night will bolster your immune system and help your body naturally fight the harmful effects of stress, the flu and many other illnesses.

Some common misconceptions about the flu include:

The flu vaccine can give you the flu. Many people believe that you can get influenza from the flu shot. In fact, the vaccine cannot give you a case of the flu, because it is made with dead flu virus components.

Going out in cold weather causes the flu. The flu is caused by a virus and spread by other people who have been infected and are coughing or sneezing.

The vaccine does not work because you can still get influenza. At any time, there are many different types of viruses around that can cause symptoms similar to those associated with influenza, such as fever, runny nose and cough. These viruses, however, cause mild illnesses, unlike the influenza virus.

If you take the flu vaccine once, you are protected for life. While this is true for other vaccines, it is not true for the flu vaccine. There are a number of flu viruses, but each year, health experts predict which ones will be most common and create a vaccine that protects against these strains. The most common strains change each year, so people need to get the influenza vaccine each year to be protected against new types of flu virus.

Take antibiotics to fight the flu. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses like influenza.

Dr. Nandini Sengupta is the director of pediatrics at The Dimock Center in Roxbury. Flu vaccinations are available to patients of The Dimock Center. For additional information about flu vaccinations or to consult a physician at The Dimock Center, please call 617-442-8800 or visit www.dimock.org.