As we head into October, cold and flu season is just getting into swing. We can expect an increase in cases of the flu and the common cold to be higher until around March. There are steps you can take to prepare, such as getting your flu shot, washing your hands often, and stocking up on cold medicine. Another way to be prepared is to know the facts. There are a lot of myths out there that have spread for various reasons. Make sure you know the truth so you can take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your family this cold and flu season.
Myth 1: The flu shot can give you the flu
According to the CDC it is impossible to get the flu from a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are made using either inactive or incomplete forms of the virus that are not capable of causing infection. So where did this myth come from?
There are a few reasons that this myth has spread so widely. First, some people will experience mild cold-like symptoms such as sore throat and congestion for 24-48 hours after receiving the flu vaccine. This is the immune system responding to the vaccine so that it can protect you from the real thing. These symptoms may be unpleasant, but they are preferable to the much more severe symptoms of influenza, which can last over two weeks.
Second, the vaccine takes up to two weeks to reach full effectiveness. So if you get the flu after receiving the vaccine, it’s not because the vaccine made you sick. It’s because you were exposed to the flu while you weren’t yet fully protected. And even if this happens, the vaccine may lessen the severity of your illness.
Lastly, the flu shot doesn’t protect you from other viruses like the common cold. So if you get a garden variety cold after getting the flu shot, that’s because it is a different virus, not the flu at all.
Myth 2: A cold can “turn into” the flu
The flu and the common cold are caused by different viruses. It isn’t possible for one to cause the other. This myth probably spread because cold and flu symptoms are very similar. It can be hard to tell the difference without a test done by your doctor. In general, the flu is more severe and is more likely to cause symptoms like a fever, chills, and body aches. A cold is more likely to cause a runny nose or congestion.
Myth 3: Antibiotics can help your cold or flu
Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. Cold and flu are caused by viruses. Therefore, antibiotics will do nothing to cure your cold or flu and could even be harmful. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the bad, which could disrupt your system while you are trying to heal.
Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them also contributes to the development of “super bugs” which are resistant to antibiotics. Only take antibiotics when prescribed by your doctor, and always take the full course even if you feel better to make sure the bacteria is completely eliminated.
Myth 4: You can get a cold from being cold
Temperature has nothing to do with the spread of cold viruses. This myth persists because cold and flu are more common during the fall and winter when it is cold outside. The truth is that these viruses are more common during the winter months because people stay inside more, so they are more likely to come in contact with someone contagious. So don’t hesitate to enjoy the outdoors during the winter months. You’re probably doing yourself a favor.
Myth 5: You can only get a cold if someone sneezes or coughs around you
Droplets from sneezing and coughing do spread cold viruses, but they aren’t the only way to get a cold. You can be infected by touching a sick person, even if they don’t sneeze or cough. Cold viruses can also survive on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. If you or someone you come in contact with is sick, be sure to wash your hands frequently and disinfect surfaces like counters, desks, phones, computer keyboards, etc.
Myth 6: It’s better to get the flu shot later in the season
Some people believe that if you get your flu shot early, you will not be protected through the end of the season. This is not true at all. The flu vaccine will protect you for at least a year. The reason you get a new flu shot every year is to be protected against the most infectious strains for that particular year. So go ahead and get your flu shot and soon as possible.
Myth 7: Pregnant women should not get the flu shot
The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women, and it is recommended that they get vaccinated as early as possible. A serious illness like the flu can cause complications in your pregnancy. The flu also sometimes leads to pneumonia, which is very dangerous for both you and your baby. Getting the flu shot is a good idea to protect yourself and your baby from potentially serious complications.
Myth 8: Healthy adults don’t need to get the flu shot
It is a good idea for everyone who is able to get the flu shot. Several years ago, there was a severe shortage of the flu vaccine in the US. During that time it was recommended that only the most vulnerable populations get the vaccine, such as young children and the elderly. This type of shortage is no longer an issue.
While healthy adults are less likely to experience serious complications from the flu, it is certainly not impossible. And even a relatively mild case of the flu can cause severe symptoms. The flu shot can prevent this serious disruption in your life. Getting the flu shot also helps to increase immunity in the general population. The more people who are vaccinated, the less that virus is able to spread. This means that even those who can’t receive the vaccine, such as immunocompromised persons, are less likely to be exposed.
Myth 9: You are only contagious when you feel sick
With both cold and flu, the infected person is contagious about a day before they experience symptoms. A cold remains contagious for 5-7 days while the flu can be contagious up to a week after symptoms clear up. So it’s a good idea to continue to take precautions such as hand washing and disinfecting surfaces even if you are feeling better.
Myth 10: Chicken soup can help cure a cold
While chicken soup has no special antiviral properties, but at least one study has shown that it may help with respiratory symptoms. It’s not clear which ingredients are responsible for the effect. It may be a combination of the ingredients with the warm temperature of the liquid. For best results, it is probably best to use homemade soup.
What do you do to fight cold and flu season? Don’t forget to like and share!