As influenza season reaches its peak, many myths circulate about how to prevent both the flu and the common cold. While both are respiratory illnesses, the flu has worse symptoms than the common cold, including fever, extreme tiredness and body aches. A cold has much milder symptoms, according to The Mayo Clinic. While some tips may be helpful in preventing them, many are simply hype. Sometimes rumors about the flu and the common cold are as hard to fight as the illnesses themselves. Here are five myths debunked.
Myth #1: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
Injected flu vaccines contain dead viruses that cannot infect you, according to the Center for Disease Control. Manufacturers of the vaccine, which includes companies such as Sanofi Pasteur, Novartis Vaccines and CSL Biotherapies, kill the virus and test the fluid to make sure it’s safe. In a blind study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, one group of patients received salt water injections and the other the flu vaccine. The only difference in symptoms was increased soreness at the injection site for those who received the actual vaccine, which is the body’s reaction to a foreign substance entering the bloodstream.The best time to receive the flu shot is from early October to mid-November.
Myth #2: Cold weather causes the flu and the common cold.
Going outdoors in the cold doesn’t increase the chances of getting sick. Since flu season began in September, Texas reported more cases of influenza than Massachusetts, according to the CDC, despite the average temperature being 61 degrees in the Lone Star State. This is because the flu typically spreads throughout random populations, particularly school children who have poor hygiene and are in close quarters more frequently during the winter, and therefore spread germs to adults.
Myth #3: If you got the flu vaccine last year, you don’t need to get it again this year.
The flu virus is always changing, and new strains are constantly appearing. Your body’s immunity to the virus declines over time after having the flu or receiving the virus due to a person’s general health and a decline in antibodies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Getting a new flu vaccine each year allows the body to fight that year’s version of the virus.
Myth #4: Chicken noodle soup helps cure the cold.
Although chicken noodle soup doesn’t help cure the common cold, there are benefits to eating it when feeling sick. The soup prevents the movement of white blood cells that help fight infection to the rest of the body, which helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms and act as an anti-inflammatory, according to a study published in the medical journal, Chest, in 2000. Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha told The New York Times that the ingredient responsible for this effect is unknown, but it may be the consumption of both vegetables and chicken together.
Myth #5: Emergency Vitamin C can prevent the common cold.
Drinking a large glass of orange juice or taking the dietary supplement “Airborne,” known for its levels of vitamin C, may or may not be effective in preventing the common cold. The research remains controversial, and based on numerous studies, people who developed colds while taking vitamin C experienced the same symptoms as people who developed colds while not taking vitamin C, according to the Mayo Clinic.