8 Cold and Flu Myths ... Busted!Erin Whitehead
When one of my kids is sick, I go on high alert. Preventing the illness of the well child becomes my full-time job. Hand-washing goes into overdrive. I am a broken record saying, “Cough into your elbow! Use a tissue! Don’t pick your nose!” When I see the well child go for a drink that the sick child had, I’ve been known to dive across the room shouting a dramatic, “Noooooooo … !” in an effort to yank the cup out of toddler hands. The truth is that we know so much now about how to prevent illness that when we see the opportunity to protect our kids from it, we jump. Sometimes literally. Because having sick kiddos — and inevitably getting sick yourself because they’re not coughing into their elbows or using tissues — is just a special kind of parental pain.
We’ve come a long way in our knowledge of communicable diseases, so it’s really fun to look back on some of the philosophies of yesterday. Take this 1940s-era educational video, for example. It advises that wet feet and a cold body are sure paths to illness, along with other dated commentary. But it does share some good advice, like not sharing food and not spitting (although while those kids are spitting is unknown).
To make sure we’re all current, here are eight busted myths about colds and flu. Knowledge is power — and we all want the power to keep from getting sick!
8 Cold And Flu Myths, Busted 1 of 9
Think you know what you need to know about the cold and flu? Read on to be sure!
The Flu Shot Causes the Flu 2 of 9
Some people are concerned that they'll get sick from the flu shot itself, but that's not the case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you can't get the flu from the flu vaccine because the vaccine is made with viruses that have been inactivated or that contain no flu vaccine viruses at all. While you could potentially experience redness or soreness at the injection site or a mild headache, low-grade fever or muscle aches, that's not the flu. If you did get sick with the flu following a flu shot, it may be because it takes two weeks to fully develop immune protection from the flu following immunization. If you're exposed to the flu before the protection takes effect, you might get sick.
Photo credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carol E. Davis, Flickr
Antibiotics Will Help If You Get Sick 3 of 9
Because both the cold and the flu are caused by viruses, antibiotics aren't going to do you any good, as they fight bacterial infections. Antivirals, on the other hand, hinder viruses' ability to multiply, so they help shorten the duration and severity of flu symptoms if they're taken as soon as flu hits. Overuse of antibiotics contributes to the resistance of bacteria to antibiotic treatments, so it's best not to take them unless you truly have a bacterial infection.
Photo credit: Iqbal Osman1, Flickr
Being Cold Will Give You a Cold 4 of 9
Nope. Being cold is uncomfortable, and prolonged exposure to cold weather may be a ticket to hypothermia, but it won't make you catch a cold or the flu. The common cold is caused by more than 200 different viruses; the rhinovirus is the most common offender. So buy a cozy jacket for warmth, but don't expect it to keep the germs away.
Photo credit: janna.wages, Flickr
Getting Wet Will Get You Sick 5 of 9
Again, nope! Just like the cold doesn't cause colds or the flu, neither does being wet or playing in the rain on a cold day. The flu, unlike the cold, is only caused by three different virus types: A, B and C. Type A and B viruses are responsible for the large flu epidemics, while type C is more stable and usually causes milder respiratory symptoms.
Photo credit: ninacoco, Flickr
Bumping up Your Vitamin C Will Prevent a Cold 6 of 9
Do you replenish your supply of vitamin C when the cold weather hits to boost your immune system to fight off colds and the flu? According to the Mayo Clinic, taking vitamin C won't help the average person prevent colds. But don't despair: Taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms just may shorten the duration of symptoms. If you know you or your kids will be exposed to lots of germs, vitamin C certainly won't hurt.
Photo credit: colindunn, Flickr
Zinc Helps Shorten the Duration of a Cold 7 of 9
You may have certain home remedies you grab as soon as you're coming down with something. If you grab zinc for its cold-fighting reputation, you may be disappointed. The highest quality randomized trials on zinc's effects generally showed no benefit. In studies with positive results, zinc seemed most effective taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Photo credit: fdecomite, Flickr
If You’re Pregnant, Skip the Flu Shot 8 of 9
If you're pregnant, you may be unsure of whether you should get immunized. But the CDC says it's a safe way to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from serious illness and complications like pneumonia. Changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu, which is why it's so important to get the shot. Plus, the flu shot can even help protect the baby after birth, which is pretty amazing.
Photo credit: Kit4na, Flickr
If You’re Healthy, You Shouldn’t Worry About the Flu 9 of 9
It's always said that those with weakened immune systems and underlying health issues are especially vulnerable to the flu. But a great number of perfectly healthy people die from the flu, too. In fact, in one report, of 794 children who died from the flu whose medical history was known, 43 percent had no high-risk medical conditions. More than one-third of those kids who died did so before they were even admitted to the hospital.
Photo credit: mah_japan, Flickr
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