True or false? Five things you need to know about H1N1

MccarthyClaire1114081. Pregnant women should be vaccinated for flu.

True. The physical effects of pregnancy put women at risk for serious complications of flu, and studies have found no harmful effects on the fetus associated with flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control says women who are at any stage of pregnancy during flu season should be immunized. This is true for both the seasonal and H1N1 flu.

2. My usual yearly flu shot will also prevent the H1N1 (swine flu).

False. The seasonal flu vaccine, the one we usually get every fall, is not effective against the specific virus that causes the H1N1 infection. A separate vaccine is being made this year, and it should be available mid-October. People in high-risk groups because they have serious chronic illness, adults and children with asthma, children 6 months to 18 years and pregnant women are STRONGLY encouraged to be vaccinated for seasonal flu and H1N1.

3. Washing my hands frequently, whether I am sick or not, is one of the most effective ways that I can prevent infection.

True. Hands are the most common way that bacteria and viruses spread from person to person. Anyone who touches what you touched can pick the bacteria and viruses up on to their hands and infect themselves. Touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching your mouth or nose may lead to infection. It is possible to infect others beginning one day before symptoms of the flu develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. This means the flu can be transmitted to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

4. Covering my cough with my hand stops infection from spreading.

False. Coughing or sneezing onto your bare hand will contaminate your hand with bacteria and viruses. If you don’t wash your hands immediately, you will spread the bacteria and viruses to anything you touch. Anyone who touches what you touched can pick the bacteria and virus up on their hands and infect themselves. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands. If a tissue isn’t available, use your upper arm to cover your mouth and nose.

5. Flu shots cause the flu.

False! This is probably the biggest myth surrounding the flu shot. You CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine. The injectable vaccine is made of inactivated viruses, so it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. The most common side effect is mild soreness or redness at the injection site, headache, low-grade fever, or a runny nose for a day after receiving the vaccine.

Claire McCarthy, MD, is a primary care physician and the medical director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Martha Eliot Health Center.

Read more about seasonal flu and a study by a Children’s doctor that proves washing your hands or using hand sanitizer really is the best way to stop the spread of flu and other illnesses.

For more information on Flu (seasonal and H1N1) from Children’s Hospital Boston, visit

One thought on “True or false? Five things you need to know about H1N1

  1. As an employee at Martha Eliot we have had the benefit of getting this information from Dr. McCarthy on a regular basis. I am glad now that more people will benefit from her clear and valuable advice.

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