Wisconsin News

Separating flu fact from flu fiction

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Rotary Lights volunteer Lester Johnson looked sternly at the pine tree in Riverside Park.

"A little crooked," he decided, and set about straightening it out.

Johnson is a lot more worried about getting this Christmas tree just right than he is about flu season.

"I've gotten this old without any flu and no flu shot," said Johnson.

But his fellow volunteer, Tammy Potaracke, isn't taking any chances. She's had the flu before and does not want to get it again.

"Runny nose, achiness, head ache, lethargic, and sometimes vomiting," said Potaracke.

Gundersen Lutheran Pediatrician Raj Naik said those stomach problems are the source of a lot of confusion about the flu vaccine.


"People will often feel as though, 'Oh, I got the flu anyways' after they get flu vaccine because they confuse a stomach virus or gastroenteritis with actual influenza," said Naik. "There's a small percentage of people that will have some gastrointestinal symptoms with influenza. But mostly it's characterized by high spiking fever, aching from head to toe, headache, cough, sore throat."

Flu season usually starts in November and can last into early spring, but that leads to another common misconception. Naik said cold weather has nothing to do with catching the flu.

"The only way it's related is that we're closer indoors. And when we're indoors, we touch more surfaces, and we're closer together, and we spread more respiratory viruses because we're closer together. But the actual weather does not have anything to do with it," said Naik.

So, as the snowflakes fall on the Rotary Lights volunteers, they can rest easy -- that is, unless they're scared of shots.

"No. Bring it on," said Potaracke with a laugh.

Another misconception is that getting a flu shot will --100 percent -- prevent you from getting influenza. That's just not true. The flu vaccine only protects against a selection of the most common strains of the flu that year.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of six months. Naik said the vaccine just doesn't work very well in infants that young, but he does recommend all of the baby's family members get vaccinated.

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