The Myths about Colds and Flu
When you have a cold or flu, chances are that people around you will have some handy advice.
Out of all these many stories connected with both colds and flu, who gets it, how we get it, what we should or shouldn't do to avoid it, and so on – it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. But let's take a look at some of the most often repeated myths about colds and flu, to see exactly what's true, and what is not!
1. Having flu is like having a heavy cold - FALSE
FALSE: While it's true that cold and flu symptoms, like coughing, a blocked nose or headaches, can seem the same, or at least be very similar, they are two very different illnesses. Some cold and flu remedies are suitable for both conditions because they offer the same symptom relief, regardless of whether it's a cold or flu. However, in general, flu symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer. Flu is caused by different viruses than those which cause colds, which is why there are symptoms which are not usually seen with a cold, for example a sudden rise in temperature. Flu also comes with a risk of complications that could make it far more serious, for example with the very young and the elderly.
2. Flu can be treated with antibiotics - FALSE
FALSE: Antibiotics are only used to treat infections caused by bacteria, but colds and flu are caused by viruses. Antibiotics have no effect on the viruses that cause a cold or flu. Antiviral medication can be used to treat the flu, but are not routinely given to most patients with the flu. They must be used early on in the illness for the most benefit and are prescription-only medication. Generally, colds and flu are instead treated by addressing the symptoms.
3. Fit and healthy people don't get colds or flu - FALSE
FALSE: Anyone, young or old, fit or otherwise, can be infected with a cold or a flu virus. Similarly, we are all capable of passing on the virus. But what is true is that those of us with certain conditions may be at risk of developing complications if infected with the flu virus. So, if you find yourself coming down with a cold or flu, you should always take precautions not to pass it on to anyone by coughing and sneezing into your inner elbow or tissues, and disposing of them quickly. Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser, especially after you cough or sneeze.
4. You will catch a cold or flu if you get cold or wet - FALSE
FALSE: It’s important to limit contact with other people when you are sick, even if it’s “just a cold”. Colds and flu can spread if you’re in close contact with others. This is especially true for schools and daycares as children’s immune systems are not fully developed and they may not have careful hygiene. Viruses can be very serious for some people, such as young children, older people or pregnant women. Stay home to keep from infecting others.
5. You can only catch cold and flu through breathing the same air as an infected person. - FALSE
FALSE: It is certainly a fact that cold and flu viruses can travel through the air. When a person infected with one of these viruses, sneezes or coughs on or near you, you could get infected. However, these viruses are not just spread through the air. Touching an infected surface could result in transferring the virus onto your hands. Infected surfaces could include a telephone, door handle, computer keyboard or child's toy, for example. The flu virus can survive on a hard surface for 24-48 hours. Once on your hands, it can get into your body when you rub your eyes or touch your nose or mouth.The key is to wash your hands thoroughly and often if you have a cold or flu, or if you're in an environment where someone else has an infection.
We hope that clears up a few of the "myths" but if you are ever in any doubt about what to do about colds or flu, always speak to your healthcare professional.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.