Debunking Cold and Flu Myths
As cold and flu season continues, you may see or hear about ways to avoid and manage cold or flu-like symptoms. Some of this advice may not always be accurate.
Amra Nasir, MD, medical director for Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care, debunks five common myths surrounding the cold and flu viruses.
BEING EXPOSED TO COLD AIR WILL MAKE YOU SICK
Dr. Nasir says that even though most cold and flu virus strains survive best in cool and dry conditions, environmental changes are not the primary reason why you are getting sick. “Cold and flu viruses are usually transmitted through contact with saliva and mucus carrying the virus,” says Dr. Nasir. “The best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands frequently and to avoid contact with sick people – especially in the winter.”
HOME REMEDIES WILL HELP GET RID OF THE COLD OR FLU
Home remedies for the cold and flu cannot cure or prevent sickness. However, certain remedies can help relieve your symptoms. For example, consuming honey, gargling with salt water and drinking hot soup broth or tea can help break up mucus in your chest and soothe your sore throat. “Cold and flu viruses must run its course before you can feel better,” says Dr. Nasir. “The best way to shorten the length of time you are sick is to drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest.”
THE FLU VACCINE CAN MAKE YOU SICK
The flu vaccine cannot make you sick with the flu. Flu vaccines are created from either inactive flu viruses or tiny traces of the virus that are not enough to make you sick. If you are feeling sick after getting the flu vaccine, Dr. Nasir says there’s a strong chance the common cold, sinusitis or another respiratory condition is responsible for your symptoms.
HEAVY EXERCISE CAN HELP YOU FEEL BETTER FASTER WHEN YOU ARE SICK
The best thing you can do for your body when you are sick is to get plenty of rest and stay away from others. “Sometimes mild to moderate exercise is OK if you have the common cold with no fever and your symptoms affect you ‘above the neck’,” says Dr. Nasir. “If you have a fever, chest congestion or body aches, exercise can make you feel worse and should be avoided.”
HEALTHY PEOPLE DO NOT NEED A FLU VACCINE EVERY YEAR
The flu vaccine is recommended for just about everyone who is 6 months old or older. “Your immunity against the flu is strongest when you first get vaccinated and declines over time, making it necessary for you to get the vaccine every year,” says Dr. Nasir. “Not getting the flu vaccine leaves you and others vulnerable to catching the flu or facing more serious flu-related complications.”
Sources: Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, Harvard Health