When it comes to common colds and flu, seasonal allergies and infections, each one of us have experienced some form of cold, cough or flu at some point in our lives. Though we are more aware and informed on preventing / dealing with these health problems, there are many myths that surround these common illnesses. However, does an apple a day really keep the doctor away, and can chicken soup really cure colds?

Below are some of the most common cold and flu myths and the truths behind them.

Feed a Cold and Starve a Fever
This is perhaps the most common myth associated with the cold and flu. However, it is never a good idea to starve yourself, no matter what illness you may have. In fact, starving yourself can actually make your condition worse because it can put a strain on your immune system.

 The truth is that if you have a cold or flu, you should drink plenty of fluids and eat foods that are rich in zinc and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. This includes, but is not limited to, eggs, whole grains, fruits, veggies, water and unsweetened orange juice.

Flu Shots Can Give You the Flu
Many people think that since flu shots are made using an inactivated flu virus, they can actually cause you to develop a flu. You will be glad to know that this is a myth. In truth, flu shots are created using a dead virus making it impossible to develop a live virus from the vaccine.

Nevertheless, you may experience various side effects from the shot including soreness, swelling of the injection site, mild fever and muscle soreness. Additionally, flu shots cannot guarantee that you will be protected against all flu virus strains. Thus, you could still catch some form of flu even after having the shots.

You Can Only Catch a Cold or Flu in the Winter
This is another one of the most common myths surrounding the cold and flu. Most of us have been taught that we need to stay bundled up during cold weather to avoid getting sick. However, cold weather is not what causes you to catch a cold or flu, the only things that cause these illnesses are viruses.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the reason people catch cold and flu viruses more often during winter than other times of the year is that they spend more time together indoors. This gives the viruses the perfect opportunity to spread from one person to another.

Chicken Soup Can Cure a Cold
Majority of us have heard the saying that chicken soup can cure a cold or flu, but is it really true? Just as with any other decaffeinated hot liquids, chicken soup can temporarily clear your nasal congestion. However, if you eat processed soup that contains a lot of sodium, it can actually worsen your condition.

Too much sodium can dehydrate your body, which may increase your cold or flu symptoms. Homemade chicken soup, on the other hand, not only can clear your nasal congestion, but it can reduce the amount of mucus that accumulates in the lungs. Additionally, since chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties, it can also soothe sore throats.

Other Common Myths
These are just a few of the most common myths associated with the cold and flu. There are many more as listed below. Some of these myths are true while some are false; however, there is some form of misconception to all of them.

  • An Apple a Day Can Keep the Doctor Away– This is somewhat true. Apples contain high levels of antioxidants that can help boost your immune system.
  • Surgical Masks Can Help Prevent the Spread of Germs – This is also true; however, the masks must be clean and properly worn to be effective.
  • You Can Only Catch a Cold or Flu if a Sick Person Sneezes or Coughs Near You – While you can definitely get sick if someone coughs or sneezes near you, you can also get sick from touching or coming in contact with contaminated surfaces.
  • Going Out with Wet Hair Can Make You Sick – This is a myth. The only way you can catch a cold or flu is to come in contact with a virus.

So, the next time someone tells you to follow a diet or take precautions to combat common illnesses, research about them first or stick to your medical practitioner’s advice.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP

For more cold and flu information, visit Careworks.