1. You can’t spread the flu (or a cold) if you’re feeling well. You’re most contagious in the 24 hours before any symptoms of the flu or a cold present themselves. Fully 20-30% of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms.
2. You’ll catch the flu in cold weather from going outside with wet hair and/or without a coat or from sitting in a draft. Despite what our mothers warned us against, cold doesn’t cause colds or flu; viruses cause the diseases.
People assume a cause and effect because flu season coincides with cold weather. But that’s not a universal condition. Plenty of people sicken and die from influenza in warmer climates.
Influenza is spread by direct contact with respiratory droplets and through the air from an infected person’s respiratory tract.
3. You should wait until cold weather comes to get your flu shot. Dennis Cunningham, a physician in Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and faculty member at OSU College of Medicine, says, “The truth is vaccinating people even in August will protect them throughout the entire flu season. This also includes the elderly who typically have been the group people are most worried about.”
4. You’ll catch the flu from the flu vaccine. The vaccine contains an inactivated (i.e., dead) virus that can’t transmit the infection, so people who get sick right after their flu shot were going to get sick anyway from an earlier exposure to an active virus.
It takes from one to two weeks to get protection from the vaccine.
Cunningham says, “ The vaccine can give you some mild symptoms (feeling achy or tender at the site of the shot), but that’s actually a good thing and shows that the vaccine is working. It tells us your body is responding appropriately to the vaccine.”
5. The flu is nothing more than a bad cold. Though influenza causes bad cold symptoms, each year 16,000 people die from the disease and 200,000 more flu victims need hospitalization.
6. You don’t need an annual flu shot. The influenza virus mutates every year. The yearly shot gives you immunity from the mutant strains most likely to cause an influenza outbreak.
Cunningham says, “The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pick the strains they think are most likely to circulate in the coming months so that people are protected against everything that may go around. Every year there are two A strains and B strain of influenza included in the vaccine.”
7. Healthy people don’t need flu shots. Everyone, even healthy specimens, benefits from being vaccinated. Healthy persons who have contact with the elderly or others who might be susceptible should get the vaccine.
8. Feed a cold and starve a fever. Poor nutrition won’t make you better. If you have a fever, you need more fluids. There’s no scientific reason to adjust your dietary habits. Though you may not feel like eating, not eating accomplishes little.
Other than being a delicious source of liquids, chicken soup has no other inherent qualities to fight flu or colds.
Sources: Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, November 2012 ScienceDaily, October 8, 2012 Vaccine Information And other sources