Busting Myths on Influenza

Being a first-time mom brings a lot of joys to you, but it also brings along worries that no one could understand. I was 19 when I got pregnant and didn’t know what to do during my entire pregnancy. I did everything that my doctor asked me to like healthy eating, light activity and lots of good sleep. He also asked me to get a few important tests done and gave me a few vaccines. But I didn’t know there were so many more things to take care of to keep my baby safe until I gave birth to Ira.

When Ira turned 7 months old, our paediatrician suggested giving Ira a triple vaccine that will keep her safe from different types of Flu, luckily I gave her the shots but many of my mommy friends didn’t and we did see two hospitalizations even before the kids could cut their first birthday cake.

What is Influenza?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It’s a very common infection with more than 10 Million cases per year in India.

Flu-like illness can be caused by many different viruses. Influenza A/H1N1 (earlier called ‘Swine Flu’) is a type of seasonal flu virus that now occurs around the world.

Influenza viruses are of 3 types: Types A, B & C. Type A has multiple subtypes based on hemagglutinin (H) & neuraminidase (N) antigens and infects multiple species: Human, Avian, Swine, equine etc. It undergoes genetic mutation resulting in a new virus and causing pandemics, epidemics, seasonal influenza outbreaks and sporadic cases.

I had the opportunity to attend an awareness program on Influenza which busted a lot of the myths I had around this illness. Dr Mukesh Gupta (Gynaecologist ) and Dr Uday Pai (Peditrician) joined the panel to throw light on interesting facts around the illness. Joining the doctors was famed Bollywood actress with two beautiful sons herself- Genelia Deshmukh.

Myths Busted!

  • Common Cold and Flu are the same

If you thought Cold & Flu are the same, you are not alone, Genelia Dsouza too had the same assumptions, at the event she shared –

“We treated influenza as common cold, we realised these two are very different. All mothers must go meet your paediatricians, gynaecologist and get all questions answered about Flu and staying protected with vaccination”

Dr Mukesh Gupta explains,

“Common cold is not same as flu. Influenza is very different and we should not mistake them for each other”

Though the early symptoms of Common cold and Flu are similar they are totally different from each other. A flu often gets associated with chills and fever.

  •  Once you take a Flu shot, you are immediately free of catching Flu

Dr Uday Pai says,

“Vaccines may take 4 to 6 weeks to develop complete immunity in your body, so you must take it before any epidemic like swine flu breaks out”

The Flu vaccine takes approximately 2-3 weeks to get activated. Which means if you take Flu Vaccine today and you catch a Flu in the next week then it is not the vaccine that gave you Flu. Nor can it protect you from an episode of Flu.

  •  Adults don’t need protection against Flu

Dr Uday Pai says,

“We assume I am healthy and I wont catch a cold or influenza, however this is not true. Everyone is susceptible and our body is exposed to many risks on a daily basis. You yourself can give your child a Flu! So moms, please get yourself vaccinated”

Everyone needs to take the Flu vaccine who surrounds the baby and that is why Dr Mukesh termed it as Samuhik Vaccination. He says,

“Flu spreads by touching, coughing, sneezing by flu affected person onto babies. So it’s best that families – parents, grandparents and even caretakers of the babies get vaccinated”

  •  Flu vaccination should be given immediately post birth

Flu vaccines are recommended for babies only after completion of first six months. Which means you protect a baby younger than 6 months from Flu by taking a flu shot during pregnancy or at pre conception stage.

Dr Mukesh says,

“Pregnant moms can take influenza vaccine at any time during their pregnancy. It is absolutely safe. There’s not much of time or energy left in mom after delivery, so take influenza vaccine during pregnancy.

A pregnant woman’s body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy and post delivery. These changes make her body more vulnerable to illnesses like Flu. Her immune system is not strong enough to fight against the virus and catching a Flu can cause problems like hospitalizations, preterm delivery, a low birth weight of the baby or pneumonia”

Genelia Dsouza said to all the the mothers,

No mother must be a Worrier, she’s a Warrior. Best way to tackle your questions about flu is to talking to your doctor

  •  Vaccinations are only for babies

Many believe after completion of 2 years (babyhood), a child is not to be given any vaccine other than the polio drops and shots.

But it is equally important to give a 3-year-old or a 5-year-old a Flu vaccine as much it is to give a 1-year-old. Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications.

Dr Mukesh says,

Best time of year to take vaccine is just before schools reopen. For both children and moms.

Dr Uday Pai says,

“April, May, June is the best period to take influenza vaccination for children and whole family for complete prevention against flu” –

Genelia Dsouza shared,

“My elder child may carry a flu virus and my younger child may get infected. So it is important to protect them both and get the whole family vaccinated”

Symptoms of Influenza

Though the early signs of Common cold and Flu are the same, a Flu occurs suddenly and is highly contagious. Here are some common symptoms of Influenza –

1. Fever or feeling feverish/chills

2. A cough

3. SoreThroat

4. Runny or Stuffy Nose

5. Muscles or Body Aches

6. Headaches

7. Tiredness

What I have to say?

Doctors at the event burst so many myths and shared so many facts which we never knew before. My key takeaways were –

1. Flu is contagious. It can easily spread if an infected person sneezes or coughs. The virus can spread up to 6 feet from where the infected person is. So it is important to cover your mouth with a tissue while you do the act and throw away the tissue in a bin.

2. You need to sanitize your hands and maintain proper hygiene as the Flu virus spreads through infected surfaces like an table or a doorknob.

3. Samuhik Vaccination is the ideal thing for families as a whole.

4. Talk to your doctors, they will guide your family in the proper direction.

“‘Disclaimer: I attended a discussion on influenza awareness facilitated by Abbott India Limited. Any opinion expressed in this blog is my personal opinion and not the opinion of Abbott India Limited. Abbott India Limited does not assume any liability for the content of the blog. The blog post is not meant to be a replacement for a doctor consultation, nor is it a medical recommendation or prescription of treatment for babies having Influenza. Any reader of this blog or their family members suffering from Influenza should specifically consult his/her doctor for the same and follow the suggested course of treatment.”

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