6 Flu Myths

6 Myths about Seasonal Flu

With school starting and the days getting shorter and cooler, it means it is that time of the year to make sure everyone in the family is ready with the essentials: winter coats, snow pants, boots, mittens, hats and flu shots.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. It is also recommended that healthy children 2-8 years of age get the nasal spray flu vaccine instead of the flu shot. Studies show that the nasal spray flu vaccine can provide better protection than the flu shot for this group.

There are some families who may still prefer not to be vaccinated for the flu. While it is certainly a personal decision, when you are trying to determine what is best for your family, consider the truth behind some common myths about the flu and vaccine.

Flu Myth 1: The flu is just a bad cold

While it is true that most individuals recover from the flu, it does have serious potential implications. The seasonal flu hospitalizes more than 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. For children and the elderly, the risk of serious complications is quite real. Children under 2 years of age have the highest rate of hospitalization from the flu. Those with underlying health conditions are at an even greater risk.

Infants under 6 months are particularly susceptible to the flu because they are too young to be vaccinated. While it’s not realistic to keep them away from people all winter long, it is a good idea to avoid visiting family and friends who are ill or have recently been ill. And, parents and caretakers should get vaccinated to help protect infants and even the elderly for whom they care.

Flu Myth 2: The flu vaccine can give you the flu

This is one of the most common myths we hear, and it is untrue if not impossible. The virus contained in the vaccines cannot infect you. And, while it is difficult to determine why this myth persists, it could be because flu season coincides with a time of year when colds and other respiratory illnesses are common. When someone gets a flu shot and becomes ill, it is likely a coincidence and not a result of the vaccine.

Flu Myth 3: You don’t need a flu vaccine every year

While there are vaccines given based on age, the flu vaccine is needed every year. The particular strains of influenza change each year, and consequently researchers develop a new vaccine based on the strains they believe will be the most prevalent. Also, the immune protection offered by the vaccine does wane over time (although it will last through the season), and unlike the chicken pox, having the flu does not protect you from getting it again.

Flu Myth 4: We should wait to get vaccinated until later in the season

It takes approximately two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the influenza virus. It is best for your family to get vaccinated as soon as vaccines are available so they are protected before the virus begins spreading. While it is true that the immune protection resulting from the vaccination does wane over time, it extends through the full season.

A similar myth is that after the end of November, it’s too late to get vaccinated. Influenza is unpredictable and seasons vary. While influenza usually peaks in January or February, it can occur as late as May so it is still a good idea to get vaccinated even in December or later.

Flu Myth 5: Antibiotics can fight the flu

The flu is caused by a virus, not a bacterial infection. Consequently, antibiotics will not have any effect. There can be complications due to the flu, such as bronchitis, sinusitis or even pneumonia. In those cases, antibiotics can help. If you do develop the flu and your symptoms continue to get worse instead of better, that is a sign to call your doctor.
If you have any questions about influenza or the vaccines, talk with your child’s primary care provider to find out what is best for your family.

Flu Myth 6: You only need a single dose of the vaccine

This is somewhat of a trick statement. In general, only a single dose of the vaccine is required. But, there are circumstances when a second dose is necessary. While your child’s primary care provider will help you determine what is right for your situation, in general, children who are 6 months through 8 years of age who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time may require two doses.

There are a few factors that providers take into consideration when determining whether a second dose is needed. Essentially if your child has received two or more doses of seasonal vaccine since July 1, 2010, then it is likely he or she will only need a single dose.

Flu vaccines are now available in most clinics. If your child does need two doses, it is a good idea to get the first dose as soon as possible since you will have to wait at least four weeks before the second dose.

While the decision to get a flu shot is certainly a personal one, it’s important that you make the decision based on facts. And remember, the shot isn’t going to keep you from getting sick in the first place, but it will help to lessen the severity of the flu and help prevent complications. It will also help to keep those around you safer.

Get the flu vaccine, don’t let a myth get you sick.

For updates about the flu visit uwhealth.org/flu

We want to know: Are you ready for cold and flu season?

6 Flu Myths
About Caroline R. Paul, MD
Dr. Caroline R. Paul is a pediatrician at UW Health West Clinic.

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Eating Disorders in Teens

It can be difficult at the beginning to decipher what is an eating disorder versus what is normal self-consciousness and dieting behavior that comes with the changing bodies in adolescents.

But as the eating disorder progresses, the red flags can get more obvious. Some of these red flags include a change in eating behavior, where people will skip meals or make up reasons why they’re not eating:

“I had a big meal earlier.”

“My stomach hurts.”

“I just brushed my teeth.”

You may also see what people generally think of as healthy eating behaviors that are spiraling out of control. For example, decreasing fat intake, skipping deserts or trying to go vegetarian or organic. These can be good health decisions, but they can spiral out of control and become an eating disorder.

You may see changes in mood, where they’re more irritable. They may avoid activities that center around food, like birthday or pizza parties. You may see binging behaviors where the food that you know that you bought has now disappeared or you find in their room lots of wrappers.

You may see purging behaviors, where they’re going to the bathroom immediately after meals. And you may not hear them actually making themselves sick, because they’re running water or they’re taking showers. Teens are very good at hiding the behaviors that they want to hide.

Part of the eating disorder is that they are covering up what they do and they are in extreme denial. No one’s going to say, “Hey mom, I think I have anorexia nervosa and I need to see a doctor.”

So gently question your child about about his or her behaviors. And if you’re really concerned, bring them to a physician. It takes a multidisciplinary team to care for eating disorders. Including mental health, dietician, and medical health or physician. And the sooner that you identify these behaviors; the sooner you bring your loved one in to get help, the better the prognosis for the eating disorder.

Learn more about eating disorders in teens

Related Resources

Eating Disorders in Teens
About Paula Cody, MD, MPH
Dr. Paula Cody is fellowship trained in adolescent medicine and is a pediatrician at the UW Health John Stephenson Teenage and Young Adult Clinic.

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Back to School – Hot vs. Cold Lunch

School LunchThe transition back to school is an opportunity for change. If there are unhealthful habits that have snuck into your family’s life over the summer, take a time-out to identify what they are. For example, perhaps summer was very busy with family engagements and your family got into the habit of dining out 3 or 4 nights per week. Try to use the transition back to school to keep everyone at home for dinner.

When returning back to school many have to decide if they are going to eat hot lunch versus bringing a lunch from home (cold lunch). Some families decide to do a mixture of both. In order to ensure a healthful lunch, it was previously recommended to pack a lunch. However, after the multitude of revisions to the school lunch program, public school lunches have improved greatly. The school lunch program now serves portions of food in accordance with the child’s age. It also must provide low-fat dairy, a fruit and a vegetable at every meal. Within the year, the school lunch program will also be incorporating more whole grains and working to reduce the amount of salt, or sodium, in the food.

When assessing the school lunch program at your child’s school it is important to ask your child if:

  • They enjoy the food.
  • They take and eat both the fruit and vegetable option daily.
  • They choose low-fat white milk to drink.
  • They get second helpings at lunch.

Their answers can help you to decide whether a cold lunch may be a healthier option. The ideal cold lunch includes a serving of whole grain, lean protein, fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy and healthy fat. When it’s all packed up it may look like:

  • ½ Peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat bread,
  • Low-fat string cheese,
  • Baby Carrots, and
  • Water bottle.

If you are looking to liven up your child’s lunch box check out this month’s recipe!

September Recipe: Kid Friendly Wraps

The following ingredients can be used to make a variety of wraps, including:

  • Turkey and Cheese roll-up
  • Philly Beef and Cheese with Peppers Wrap
  • Hawaiian wrap with Ham, Cheese and Pineapple
  • Personal pizza wrap with turkey meat balls, shredded cheese and assorted vegetables
  • Veggie wrap with hummus and assorted vegetables
  • Taco Wrap with refried beans, greek yogurt, shredded cheese and vegetables with guacamole and salsa


  • 1 Low-Fat, Whole Wheat Tortilla (Small or Medium)
  • 1 serving of Lean Protein (Turkey, Chicken, Lean Ham, Lean Roast beef, Turkey meatballs, Peanut butter, Refried beans)
  • 1 serving of Low-Fat Dairy (Shredded cheese, sliced cheese, soft cheese spread, Greek yogurt)
  • 1 serving of vegetables (spinach, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, bell pepper, tomato sauce)
  • 1 serving of healthy fat (1 Tbsp Hummus, ¼ Avocado, 1 Tbsp Guacamole)

Lay the tortilla flat and then spread the healthy fat of your choice on the tortilla.

Lay the lean protein on top of the spread.

Place the low-fat cheese or yogurt on top of the lean protein. Spread the vegetables over the dairy evenly.

Then, fold one side of the wrap towards the center about 1-inch.

Begin to roll the wrap tightly beginning at an edge to the left or the right of the fold.

If your kids bring lunch to school from home, what do you pack?

Back to School – Hot vs. Cold Lunch
About Cassie Vanderwall, MS, RD, CD, CDE, CPT
Cassie Vanderwall is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and certified diabetes educator at the UW Health Pediatric Fitness Clinic and Pediatric Diabetes Clinic. Cassie is passionate about empowering families by equipping them with the tools they need to achieve a healthier life.

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CyberbullyingBullying is not new, but the widespread use of technology has created an entire new method of bullying. Cyberbullying is the use of technology to embarrass, harass, impersonate, intimidate or even threaten another person. The mode of technology includes emails, text messages, chat rooms, or messages and photos posted and shared through social media. The use of technology means that bullying is no longer limited to face to face contact, but can happen anywhere and at any time. In addition, the bully can remain anonymous.

It is estimated that one third of teenagers have been a victim of cyberbullying. What are some of the signs that an adolescent is being bullied? The victim may hide his or her phone or computer to prevent others from seeing the messages. If the bullying is occurring within the group of friends, the victim may avoid social activities and spend more time at home. Teenagers who are bullied may avoid school, even faking illness to miss class, and as a result grades begin to slip. Other signs include difficulty sleeping , inability to concentrate and increased worry, irritability or guilt. Victims of cyberbullying are at an increased risk of developing anxiety or depression and in extreme cases, even thoughts of hurting themselves.

What can you do if you are the victim of cyberbullying? Stop all communication with the bully. Although it may be challenging, block the individual from Facebook and other social media websites and delete messages without reading them. Talk to someone about the bullying! Start with a close friend who you can trust. You may also need to talk with an adult such as a teacher, a coach, your doctor or your parents. Most importantly, whether or not you are being bullied, remember to protect yourself online. The internet is accessible to millions of people all over the world and everything posted online is permanent. Never post personal information such as your phone number or address. Never share passwords. Talk openly with your parents about what you do online.

As a parent, the most important first step if you are concerned your child is the victim of cyberbullying is to talk with him or her. Find out what is happening. You may need to contact the school, the internet service or content provider, or even the police. Let you child know these are steps you need to take for his or her safety. You can also take steps at home, including closer monitoring of technology. Teach your child about the importance of online privacy.

Learn more about  cyberbullying and online safety:

About Kerry Gannon, MD
Dr. Kerry Gannon is a pediatric resident at the University of Wisconsin Pediatric Residency Program.

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Parent’s Guide to Pain Prevention

Mom, Child and PediatricianDoes this situation sound familiar?

“You have a doctor appointment for a check-up today after school.”

“Am I going to get a shot? I hate shots. I don’t think I want to go to the doctor today.”

Before the age of 2 years old, the CDC recommends children receive 24 immunizations. While this sounds like a lot of shots, and it is, immunizations are one of the Public Health initiatives that have resulted prevention of the most deaths and disability early in life.

Often children need sports physicals, annual check-ups or other appointments to ensure they are up-to-date on their health care needs. Not all of these appointments will require immunizations or blood draws, but children become focused on that task early in life.

There is a phrase in pain management that I have adopted as my personal mantra – “If you can anticipate pain, you can prevent pain.” On a daily basis I work with students, staff and families to learn how to anticipate and prevent (or reduce) pain in everyday life. Pain management is not just about medication, today there are many tools available to help control pain.

Here are some tips to prevent (or reduce) pain:


The Five S’s

  • Swaddling
  • Side/stomach position
  • Shushing
  • Swinging
  • Sucking

The Five S’s are frequently used to comfort a crying infant. Typically injections are given in the thighs and blood draws are often heel sticks in this age group. By swaddling their upper body and leaving their legs out, you can provide some comfort for the baby. Laying them on their side and shushing or singing quietly in/near their ear can also provide comfort. Allowing them to suck on a pacifier alone or with sugar water (sweet ease™), formula or breast milk can provide pain relief during the procedure. Allowing them to breastfeed during the procedure has been shown to provide great pain relief. Finally, gently swinging them after the poke can help to calm them after the procedure.  While we may not be able to use all of these techniques with every infant, think about which ones will be appropriate as you prepare for your next well baby check-up.

Older Infants to Toddlers

Music provides pain relief in a couple ways. Many times music evokes an emotional response, it can trigger memories or it can relax or excite us. Music is a great tool to use during painful procedures like needle sticks. If you have a smart phone, music can be easily found through a variety of applications, websites or music downloads. If you have ear buds available that can increase the success of relieving the child’s pain. If you do not have an electronic device, you always have your voice and your child’s voice. You might choose to sing or hum a song that is soothing to the child or you may choose one that is fun and upbeat. Once they are old enough, ask the child to sing along and tap the beat with their finger, hand or toes. The more you involve them, the more successful the music will be!

Toddlers through Teenagers

Distraction is a big word for dividing someone’s attention from one task to multiple tasks. Take the child’s attention off the object of pain (needle poke) and distract them with something fun. The items that can be used for distraction are almost limitless – books, movies, games, applications, and other toys.  You can bring a book with you that your child has not seen recently, or a new book they have never seen.  While you read to them, ask questions about objects on the page. If you forget to bring a distraction item, most clinics that cater to pediatric patients will have something available that you can borrow.  Look around the room you are in – is there a picture you can ask your child about? Or a fish mobile to have them watch? Do you have a cell phone with applications the child likes? Are there books or magazines in the waiting area they can bring with them to read during the procedure? Use your imagination; unless you are in a solid white room, the available distractions are limitless!!

Buzzy Bee

A final option to consider is Buzzy Bee. It works by using cold and vibration to make temporary changes to the central nervous system that works to prevent the pain signal from getting through to the brain. It is cute and fun to look at, so it also provides some distraction. Many clinical sites at UW Health have Buzzy Bee available.

During September, Pain Awareness Month, we will be selling Buzzy Bee in the outpatient pharmacies and at the Gift Shops. Look for one at a site near you. If you cannot find one locally, Buzzy can be purchased at www.buzzy4shots.com.

Remember, if you can anticipate pain, you can find a way to prevent it, or at least decrease the amount of pain your child experiences.

What are some ways you comfort or distract your child during needle pokes?

Parent’s Guide to Pain Prevention
About Peggy Riley, RN, MN, MPH
Peggy Riley has been a Pain Clinical Nurse Specialist for 6 years and a Pediatric Pain Clinical Nurse Specialist for the last year. She is passionate about partnering with patients, families and staff to achieve the best pain relief for each person.

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