Science Mom: What You Don’t Know About The Flu Can Hurt You

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science mom

Since I have a YMCA membership, I get to watch a lot of closed-captioned headline news that otherwise I would just as soon have skipped. Last fall, during the height of the Ebola panic, there was nonstop coverage of just how ape-shit everyone in the USA should go over the arrival of the disease to our shores. But now that we’re in the middle of peak flu season? Zero. Zilch. Nothing. I’ve seen more coverage on CNN about Cadbury creme eggs than I have about the fact that we’ve seen 45 pediatric flu deaths so far this season – and that there are undoubtedly more to come.

Since I can’t count on CNN to fan the freak-out flames of something that’s worth making some noise over, I’m willing to do it myself – and to tell you what to do with your feelings of worry. Here are some myths you’ve heard about the flu (spoilers: it is something to worry about) with a healthy dollop of fact-based reality to go along with the fear.

Myth: The flu is no biggie.

Truth: The flu sucks. The flu sucks giant, pendulous, upper-respiratory-infection balls. If you think you’ve had the flu and it didn’t really slow you down at all, you probably just had a cold – the flu is a cold on steroids. Chills, fatigue, full-body aches – sometimes even to the point of requiring hospitalization. That hardly ever happens, though, right? Well, only if you consider 8,000 times so far this season ‘hardly ever’.

And did you miss the part about 45 dead children already this year? Come on, son. Get your flu shot. Get yourself protected, and protect the people around you, too.

Myth: I’m neither very old or very young, so it doesn’t matter at all if I get the flu (or the flu shot).

Truth: You suck.

Sorry, that isn’t a very good answer. Let me elaborate: you really suck. Leaving aside your own chances of getting ill, sure, maybe you don’t have children, or you don’t see your elderly parents often. Do you also never go to the grocery store and spew your contagious, pre-symptomatic flu germs all over the cart that an elderly person is going to use after you? When you get sick, do you see a veterinarian instead of a family doctor to avoid gently misting the entire waiting room full of babies in car seats every time you sneeze?

If you’re not interested in being a thoughtful member of society, consider this: pandemic strains like the Spanish flu in 1918 and the H1N1 version of 2009 hit health 20-to-50-year-olds the hardest. But yes, I’m sure you’re immune and probably immortal as well, so why not take a gamble on getting sick?

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