Every time you pick up a cold or flu, you can guarantee that everyone you meet 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 try 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: 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. Generally speaking, however, 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 such as a sudden rise in body temperature, resulting in fever, which is not normally seen with a cold. In rare cases, flu can result in complications particularly with the very young and the elderly. however, for most people, flu is nothing to worry about and you should feel better within a few days.
2. Flu can be treated with antibiotics
FALSE: Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. However, as cold and flu are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not be effective on viral infections such as colds and flu.
3. Fit and healthy people don't get colds or flu
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, such as diabetes or heart disease, 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 care not to pass it on to anyone by coughing and sneezing into tissues, and disposing of them quickly.
4. You will catch a cold or flu if you get cold or wet
FALSE: Being cold can't simply result in you "catching a cold" as if it had appeared from nowhere, but if your body gets cold and wet, it can make your body susceptible to developing a cold and flu virus. In this situation, the virus could then start to multiply, which could lead to cold or flu symptoms. So, wrapping in warm clothing on cold days and keeping dry when it's wet may help prevent a dormant virus becoming active.
5. You can only catch a cold and flu through breathing the same air as an infected person.
FALSE: It is certainly a fact that cold and flu viruses can travel through the air. So 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 a child's toy, for example. The flu virus can survive on a hard surface for 24 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 a medical professional.