Preventing the Flu: Vaccination Seen as Less Important than Rest, Hand Washing, Diet, Appropriate Dress

Door knobs and handles, cell phones seen as objects holding most germs

05:00 AM EST Dec 9, 2015 Rating
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Preventing the Flu: Vaccination Seen as Less Important than Rest, Hand Washing, Diet, Appropriate Dress

NEW YORK, N.Y. – As the holidays are fast approaching, another season is gearing up to make an appearance as well, though it brings with it a little less joy. Flu season is nearly here and almost one third of all adults (32%) do not think that having a flu shot will help them avoid getting the flu. In fact, less than half (43%) agree strongly that flu shots will help them avoid it. On top of that, many people seem not to worry about the flu at all. Over four in ten (42%) adults believe than “people take the flu season too seriously.” These findings help to explain why a majority of the public did not get flu shots before or during previous flu seasons.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,225 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 14 and 19, 2015.

Avoiding the flu

When it comes to the avoidance game, Americans have a few key plays in mind. Majorities of adults agree strongly that the following can help them avoid getting sick during the flu season:

Almost half (48%) believe strongly that dressing appropriately for the weather will help them do this, while substantial minorities feel strongly that getting a flu shot (43%), taking vitamins (37%), and using hand sanitizers (37%) will help them to avoid getting ill.

In addition, almost one in five adults (19%) strongly believe that homeopathic remedies will help them. It’s worth noting that many “somewhat” believe each of these options will help them avoid the flu.

There may be a few key things to keep away from on the path to flu avoidance as well. Half (51%) of adults say they limit their contact with children during the flu season and 35% avoid public transportation. When it comes to germ-ridden objects, doors – and their knobs and handles – (32%) top the list of things Americans believe are most likely to hold germs, far ahead of phones (19%), toilets and toilet handles (5%), remote control devices (4%), sponges (4%), and money (4%).

Dealing with the flu

What people want and expect if they do get the flu varies. Over eight in ten (81%) adults “just want to be left alone.” While 66% try to “tough it out” and keep going to work, contrary to CDC recommendations that those sick with flu-like symptoms stay home and avoid human contact. Meanwhile, 40% expect to be pampered by their spouse or family members.

A lot of things are seen as essential when dealing with the flu. Majorities say that all of the following are “must-haves”: tissues (75%), hand soap (64%), cough drops/throat lozenges (58%), cold medicine (54%), cough medicine (53%), pain reliever (53%) and vitamin C (51%). Almost half (49%) also see hand sanitizers as essential.

When it comes to the best time to use fever reducers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to treat the flu or flu-like symptoms, the results vary. While some will take drugs at any temperature above normal (20%), 21% treat between temperatures of 100 to 100.9 degrees and 24% use them when they reach 101 to 101.9 degrees. This means that by the time a fever nears 102 degrees, below which doctors routinely suggest letting the fever run its course – and do its job – in healthy adults, more than six in ten have already taken steps to bring it down. Relatively few wait until their temperatures reach 102 degrees or higher (14%), while 13% don’t use them at all.

 

 

TABLE 1a

WAYS TO AVOID ILLNESS

Grid Summary

"How strongly do you agree or disagree that each of the following can help you avoid getting sick during flu season?"

Base: All adults

 

AGREE
(NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

%

%

%

%

%

%

Being well rested

96

63

33

4

2

2

Washing hands frequently

95

69

26

5

4

1

Maintaining a healthy diet

93

54

39

7

4

3

Dressing appropriately for the weather

86

48

38

14

9

5

Taking vitamins/ supplements

83

37

45

17

12

5

Using hand sanitizer frequently

77

37

40

23

16

7

Getting an annual flu shot/vaccine

68

43

25

32

16

16

Using homeopathic herbs/remedies

60

19

41

40

25

15

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 1b

WAYS TO AVOID ILLNESS

Summary of “Strongly Agree”

By Generation, Gender & Children in Household

"How strongly do you agree or disagree that each of the following can help you avoid getting sick during flu season?"

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children in HH

Millennials
(18-35)

Gen Xers
(36-50)

Baby Boomers
(51-69)

Matures
(70+)

Men

Women

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Being well rested

63

63

64

64

55

56

69

64

62

Washing hands frequently

69

65

69

71

73

62

75

70

68

Maintaining a healthy diet

54

56

50

56

52

48

60

58

52

Dressing appropriately for the weather

48

53

38

49

54

45

51

55

45

Taking vitamins/ supplements

37

42

30

37

38

32

42

41

35

Using hand sanitizer frequently

37

44

32

36

33

32

41

43

34

Getting an annual flu shot/vaccine

43

33

35

47

75

42

43

40

44

Using homeopathic herbs/remedies

19

29

18

14

8

17

22

30

14

 


TABLE 2a

ATTITUDES TOWARDS FLU SEASON

Grid Summary

"Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements."

Base: All adults

 

AGREE

(NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not applicable

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I just want to be left alone when I am sick.

81

40

41

19

14

5

-

I try to “tough it out” and keep going to work/ school as long as I can when I feel I’m coming down with something.

66

34

32

24

13

10

10

I limit contact with children during flu season.

51

24

27

49

24

24

-

People take flu season too seriously.

42

15

27

58

33

25

-

I expect to be pampered by my spouse/family members when I am home sick.

40

16

24

50

27

23

10

I avoid public transportation during flu season.

35

20

14

29

15

14

37

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 2b

ATTITUDES TOWARDS FLU SEASON

Summary of “Agree (NET)”

By Generation, Gender & Children in Household

"Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements."

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children in HH

Millennials
(18-35)

Gen Xers
(36-50)

Baby Boomers
(51-69)

Matures
(70+)

Men

Women

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I just want to be left alone when I am sick.

81

77

80

84

88

80

82

80

82

I try to “tough it out” and keep going to work/ school as long as I can when I feel I’m coming down with something.

66

80

77

57

31

69

64

80

60

I limit contact with children during flu season.

51

58

45

51

49

53

50

49

53

People take flu season too seriously.

42

52

48

34

23

47

37

51

37

I expect to be pampered by my spouse/family members when I am home sick.

40

53

41

32

26

41

39

53

33

I avoid public transportation during flu season.

35

45

31

30

28

37

32

45

30

 

TABLE 3

MUST-HAVE FLU SEASON PRODUCTS

By Generation, Gender & Children in Household

"Which of the following products, if any, do you consider ‘must-haves’ during flu season? Please select all that apply."

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children in HH

Millennials
(18-35)

Gen Xers
(36-50)

Baby Boomers
(51-69)

Matures
(70+)

Men

Women

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Any (NET)

94

95

93

92

95

91

96

96

93

Tissues

75

71

71

79

82

65

85

72

77

Hand soap

64

60

66

61

79

55

72

65

63

Cough drops (throat lozenges)

58

61

61

53

58

53

63

63

55

Cold medicine

54

58

56

52

40

51

56

58

51

Cough medicine

53

53

58

49

54

48

58

56

51

Pain reliever

53

49

57

54

49

47

59

56

51

Vitamin C

51

55

58

45

43

49

54

56

49

Hand sanitizer

49

56

50

44

44

42

56

58

45

Zinc

19

16

23

20

17

17

21

20

18

Sleep medication

18

27

16

13

10

22

14

23

15

Something else

9

10

10

8

4

7

11

12

7

None of these

6

4

6

7

5

8

4

4

7

Note: Multiple responses allowed.

 

TABLE 4

TEMPERATURE TO USE FEVER REDUCERS

By Generation, Gender & Children in Household

"Which of the following most closely describes the point at which you use fever reducers (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen) when experiencing the flu or flu-like symptoms?"

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children in HH

Millennials

(18-35)

Gen Xers

(36-50)

Baby Boomers

(51-69)

Matures

(70+)

Men

Women

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Any temperature above normal

20

18

21

23

14

19

21

20

19

100-100.9 degrees Fahrenheit

21

21

22

19

23

21

20

23

20

101-101.9 degrees Fahrenheit

24

28

25

22

19

24

24

30

21

102-102.9 degrees Fahrenheit

10

10

9

11

9

8

12

10

10

103-103.9 degrees Fahrenheit

3

4

2

1

2

3

2

4

2

104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher

1

*

3

1

*

1

2

1

1

I never use fever reducers

13

12

8

15

23

14

12

6

17

Not sure

8

7

10

9

10

10

7

5

10

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 5

GERM-RIDDEN OBJECTS

Summary of Top 10 Responses

"What every day object do you believe holds the most germs"

Base: All adults

 

Total

Rank

%

#

Doors/Door knobs/Handles

32

1

Cell phone/Phones

19

2

Toiles/Toilet handle

5

3

Remotes/Controllers (i.e. TV remote, etc.)

4

4

Sponge

4

4

People/body parts (i.e., hands, mouth, etc.)

4

6

Money

4

7

Sink/ Sink trap

3

8

Computer/Keyboards/Mouse

3

9

Hand towels/Wash cloths

2

10

Note: Unaided question

 

 

TABLE 6*

THOSE WHO HAD FLU SHOTS AND THOSE WHO GOT THE FLU THIS WINTER

“Thinking back to this winter just ending…

Did you get the flu this winter?

Did you have a flu vaccine shot before this winter?”

Base: All adults

 

March

2004

March

2005

April

2007

April

2008

April

2009

April

2010

April 2011

April 2012

April 2013

April 2014

April 2015

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Percentage of all adults who had a flu shot before this winter

35

27

35

36

40

39

44

40

44

44

47

Percentage of all adults who believe they got the flu this winter

18

21

15

20

18

12

11

11

14

13

14

* Data is from April 2015

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between October 14 and 19, 2015 among 2,225 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #79, December 9, 2015

By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman Emeritus, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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