The holidays, cold weather and the flu. It’s an unfortunate combination, but all these things come around toward the end of the year.
And with the flu season in tow, there are also many myths involving the virus that people believe. Here are five of the most common flu myths about the virus and why you shouldn’t believe them:
Myth: You can catch the flu by going out into the cold without a coat or with wet hair
Fact: You can only catch the flu if you are exposed to the virus. Although flu season usually occurs during cold weather, lower temperatures don’t influence the spread of influenza.
Myth: You don’t need to get the flu shot, or get it every year
Fact: You need to get the flu shot every year. The influenza virus mutates every year and the flu shot of that year is reflective of the mutation.
For example, using data and information from last year’s flu strains, the Center for Disease Control made some changes to the 2017-2018 flu vaccine. The most significant difference comes in the A strains, with an update to protect from the H1N1 flu virus.
Myth: Influenza is a just a bad cold and can also be the “stomach flu”
Fact: Although influenza typically has the symptoms of a severe cold such as coughing, runny nose, and fever, the flu is much more serious. Along with the previous symptoms, the virus can also include muscle aches and headaches.
These symptoms can become deadly, as the flu can lead to pneumonia. In sever cases, influenza can also cause seizures in children. On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized every year because of influenza, leading to 36,000 deaths.
The “stomach flu,” may have a similar name, but can produce completely different symptoms. Influenza is generally a respiratory virus, largely affecting the lungs and nasal passages. The “stomach flu” will create problems in the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
Rather than a development or version of influenza, the “stomach flu” can be caused by other various viruses and vaccines.
Myth: You should starve your fever
Fact: A high fever can be a symptom of influenza and some people think that avoiding food can starve a fever and make it go away.
Good news for those with an appetite, you can eat while sick with the flu. The cause of the fever is not related to your caloric intake. In fact, you should maintain your diet so the immune system is strong enough to fight off the virus.
Myth: Cover your mouth with your hands when coughing
Fact: It’s thought to be polite to cover your mouth when coughing to make sure the flu doesn’t spread. This method will spread the germs onto your hands and eventually anything that you touch.
If you cover your mouth with your hands, the flu will be sure to spread more quickly.
Cough, or sneeze, into a tissue when available. If not, your sleeve could work and in dire circumstances, coughing toward your elbow can minimize the spread.
Wondering what’s in this year’s flu vaccine? Take a look at our summary of the 2017-2018 flu shot and see what strains you can help avoid.
Written for Passport Health by Kaitlyn Luckow. Kaitlyn is a freelance writer, photographer and English teacher in Milwaukee. She has a passion for capturing and writing other people’s stories. You can find her at sayhellostory.com.