Cold & Flu Prevention

8 Myths About Colds and Flu

The HealthCentral Editorial Team Mar 28th, 2012 (updated Feb 4th, 2015)
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Cold and flu season has arrived, and that means it's also the season for cold and flu advice. As the weather turns cooler, you're sure to hear friends and family members passing around words of wisdom about the best ways to treat-or even prevent-colds and flu. But how much of this advice should you heed?

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You should avoid dairy when you have a cold
You should avoid dairy when you have a cold

Despite common belief, several studies have found no link between the production of mucus and milk consumption. The only effect scientists found was that some milk drinkers appeared to have a looser cough, something that's often welcomed by people who have a cold.

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Swine flu comes from eating pork products
Swine flu comes from eating pork products

When the H1N1 flu virus first hit the news in 2009, it was first called "swine flu" because this particular type of virus was first seen in pigs. The H1N1 flu virus is simply an influenza virus that is contracted the same ways as other types of flu. You can't get it from eating pork.

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The flu shot can give you the flu
The flu shot can give you the flu

This is one of the most common myths about the flu, and it is false. Injected flu vaccines contain only dead forms of a flu virus, and it is a scientific impossibility for a dead flu virus to infect a person. The nasal flu vaccine, FluMist, does contain a live virus, but it has been modified so that it does not infect people who get this vaccine.

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Cold and flu sufferers always need antibiotics
Cold and flu sufferers always need antibiotics

Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections, and colds and flu are caused by viruses. Thus, a person who has a cold or flu that is without complications does not need antibiotics. Antiobiotics are prescribed to cold and flu sufferers who have developed such bacterial infections as bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections or ear infections.

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Catching a cold means your immune system is weak
Catching a cold means your immune system is weak

If you catch one of these viruses, it means that you've been exposed to one of them through your eyes, nose, or mouth and your body was not able to resist the infection. A person's immune system does not need to be compromised for this to happen.

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Feed a cold and starve a fever
Feed a cold and starve a fever

This is a famous "old wives tale," and it's sometimes heard with the "cold" and "fever" reversed for either starving or feeding. Experts say neither version is true and that doing either extreme is likely taxing to a body that's trying to fight the viral infection.

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Cold and flu viruses are only spread through the air
Cold and flu viruses are only spread through the air

Though cold and flu viruses do move through the air, they are most often passed from person to person via surfaces. If you touch something that has the virus on it such as a doorknob, a phone, or a countertop, the virus can remain active on your hands. If you then touch your nose or eyes, you can contract the virus.

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If you get the flu once in a season, you can't get it again
If you get the flu once in a season, you can't get it again

Unfortunately, this isn't true. There are several different types of flu, each with its own virus, and contracting one flu virus does not make you immune to the others.