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Cold and Flu Myths
December 12, 2014
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Cold and Flu Myths

Got a virus?

You’ll be told to starve your fever, take lots of vitamin-C and never go outside with wet hair.

But most of that info is just plain wrong.

Here’s the scoop on how to stop cold and flu symptoms in their tracks.

Your throat is scratchy and your head is swimming.

You’re coming down with a cold or flu, but how did you get it in the first place?

Was it the guy with the hacking cough in seat a few rows back?

From the perils of cross-country flying to venturing outside with wet hair, it can be hard to tell fact from fiction.

And everyone, from the mailroom guy to your well-meaning spouse, has suggestions about how to nip that virus in the bud.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there.

Superstitions and family remedies aren’t going to keep anyone from getting sick and won’t make them better if they do.

Here’s the truth about 10 common cold and flu myths:

1. Air travel can trigger cold and flu symptoms.


Many people believe that cabin air is riddled with germs, and that they can catch a cold merely by breathing in-flight.

But that’s not true, according to a 2005 study published in the British medical journal Lancet.

In fact, “the perceived risk is greater than the actual risk,” the study reported.

The ventilation system on most planes continually circulates air through high-grade air filters that remove many airborne bacteria, so it’s cleaner than air at a restaurant or department store.

So then, why do we get sick more often after taking a flight?

Blame your fellow passengers.

You’re exposed to more people than usual in a smaller space.

If the person next to you is incubating a virus, wipes his nose and touches the armrest you’re sharing, you can catch it.

The best way not to catch a cold or flu virus while flying?

If the person next to you appears ill, ask the flight attendant if you can switch seats with someone else.

If there are seats available, your request will most likely be granted.

And wash your hands after touching potentially contaminated surfaces such as armrests, tray tables, bathroom doors and sinks, and overhead-bin latches.

2.You can catch a cold by braving frosty weather with wet hair.

Nope, not possible.

If you do get sick, you were probably already [infected with a virus] before you went out the door.

You can only catch a cold by coming into contact with another human carrying the cold virus."

Also, people get sick more often in winter because they spend more time indoors in close contact with others.

That increases the chances of spreading illnesses.

However, going outside with wet hair once you’re sick can make you feel even more chilled and uncomfortable, so avoid it if you can.

3. Antibiotics can relieve cold and flu symptoms.

Not so.

Antibiotics kill bacteria, and colds and flu are caused by viruses.

So antibiotics won’t get rid of your sniffles.

In fact, using antibiotics to treat colds can cause other health problems later.

That’s because they “can create a resistance to bacteria,” according to Dr. Bill Maguire.

Plus, you might have side effects from antibiotic treatment, for example, diarrhea and stomach cramps, that can make you feel worse than cold and flu symptoms do.

Serious flu cases, however, may sometimes be complicated by a secondary bacterial infection, which can be cured by antibiotics.

Most flu sufferers begin to feel better after 7-10 days.

If you’re not better by day 10, see a doctor.

4. You should feed a cold and starve a fever.

There’s really no logic to either of these approaches.

With a cold or flu, it’s important to eat healthy to help your immune system fight the virus.

It's also important to stay hydrated.

If you’re feverish, you’ll need to replace fluids lost through perspiration.

Liquids can also loosen congestion.

Water, juice and warm beverages, like tea and broth, can replenish fluids, soothe sore throats and loosen mucous, making breathing easier.

But stay away from hot toddies and other alcoholic beverages, coffee and caffeinated sodas, which all dehydrate your body.

5. You can get sick from a flu shot.

Pardon?

The flu shot protects you from the virus.

That’s because the flu shot’s viruses are inactive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But some people can suffer side effects, mild flu-like symptoms like muscle aches, low-grade fever, which generally last only a couple of days after getting a vaccine.

And you still can get the flu immediately after the shot because its protective effects take two weeks to kick in.

If you were exposed to a flu virus just before getting vaccinated or during the 14-day incubation, you could still get sick.

6. Vitamin-C and echinacea help prevent and shorten colds.

The evidence is mixed.

Many people insist they feel better sooner when taking supplements of the wild flower echinacea at the beginning of a cold or flu, and a 2010 study of 700 people in the Annals of Internal Medicine seems to support that.

Patients taking echinacea reported slightly milder cold and flu symptoms, and their viruses ended about 7-10 hours sooner than those who didn’t take the herb.

The effects were minimal, but people who have found echinacea to be beneficial shouldn’t stop using it.

Moderate doses of vitamin-C and echinacea probably won’t do any harm, but they “won’t help get rid of colds.”

Apparently that’s backed by a review on vitamin-C conducted by Laramie Reproductive Health in Wyoming and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in 2009.

Vitamin-C isn’t effective at preventing the common cold in the general-adult population,” researchers concluded.

The cold virus stays in your system 7-10 days; by day 7 you should start to feel better, even without vitamin-C or herbal supplements.

Personally, I take 4,000 mg vitamin-C, as well as 2,000 IU's of vitamin-D3, which for me, seems to stop the progression in it's tracks.

7. Doctors can’t help you heal faster.

Physicians can’t cure a cold and/or the flu, but there’s one tool in the medical bag that might speed your recovery: empathy.

People with colds recovered a day earlier if they believed their doctors showed concern and listened to them, according to a 2009 study at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

It “somehow boosted their immunity” and relieved cold symptoms, says David Rakel, M.D., director of Integrative Medicine at the university and the study’s lead author.

8. Flu season hits everywhere at the same time.

In the Northern Hemisphere, flu season generally runs from late December through March.

But no month in the calendar is flu-free.

We see flu cases all year long, says our friend Dr. Bill Maguire.

"If unvaccinated people travel to South America or Australia, where they have winter [and flu season] during our summer, travelers can catch that year’s virus and bring it back when the season is over here.”

The flu vaccine is designed to protect for a year.

So people should get flu shots as soon as they become available, usually in late September to early October.

That way, you’ll be fully protected during peak flu season and the rest of the year.

If you haven’t had a flu shot by December or January, it’s still not too late to benefit from its protection during the worst of the flu season, or in coming months.

9. Flu shots protect against all flu viruses.

Nada: The strains used in flu shots vary annually.

That’s why doctors recommend getting one every year.

Each year, epidemiologists try to anticipate which flu strains are most likely to be present.

Those are then included in that year’s vaccine.

They mostly guess right, and in some cases, the vaccine can provide protection against related strains that aren’t targeted in the shot.

However, 2010's H1N1 virus (also known as swine flu) was a new mutation, so it required a separate vaccination.

The swine-flu strain is now included in the flu shot.

10. You won’t get sick if you’re fit.

Unfortunately, being in good shape won’t prevent infection, but it might reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms, according to a 2010 Appalachian State University in North Carolina study.

That’s because aerobic exercise may temporarily boost immune- system cells, the researchers say.

“Eating right and staying fit is always a good thing for the body’s immune system,” Dr. Maguire agrees.

“Your body is in better shape to fight off infections, and if you do catch a virus, you’ll probably be sick for a shorter period of time.”

Sadly, that's all the time we have today, so next time you're in pain, head to your kitchen.

We wish you and your family the very best in health and happiness for this holiday season!

Marilyn and I truly hope this information helps, and you found some value in this edition!

Until next time, we want you to,

live longer, live younger!

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