Cold and flu myths busted
Is a flu jab essential? Will you catch a cold from your sniffy colleague? Dr Ellie Cannon separates the fact from the fiction…
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FLU AND A COLD?
There’s a common misconception that the flu is merely a bad cold, but a common cold usually lasts for a few days and you may feel a little unwell. Meanwhile, the flu is quite debilitating and causes sore throat, muscle ache, fever and lasts for around ten days. Last year, 150 people died from the flu, whereas no one becomes seriously ill from a cold and you need to treat both differently.
WILL GOING OUT WITH WET HAIR MAKE ME ILL?
There’s no specific truth to this. If you have wet hair, you’ll feel colder because of the evaporation of the water, but not much else will happen. What matters is whether you’re exposed to a virus, not necessarily the temperature. Studies have shown that if your core temperature drops too low, it can weaken your immune system, but you can catch a cold at any time of the year – even in sunny climes.
IS VITAMIN C BEST FOR FIGHTING SYMPTOMS?
Vitamin C is good for preventing illness, but once you have a cold, it’s questionable whether it will do anything for you. Of course, eating and drinking well and getting plenty of rest will help you get better, but it’s more beneficial to concentrate on a multivitamin for a healthy immune system. Try one that includes vitamins C and D, plus plenty of iron and zinc.
CAN YOU CATCH A COLD FROM ANOTHER PERSON?
Most of us think colds are very contagious, but it can be difficult to catch one from another person, unless they have coughed or sneezed and you’ve inhaled the infected droplets. A lot of viruses come from contaminated surfaces rather than other people. You’re more likely to catch a cold by touching a hand rail in your bathroom than by someone breathing on you, as viruses tend to survive on hard surfaces.
IS A FLU JAB WORTH HAVING?
The flu vaccine is only recommended for people who are vulnerable (children under five, the over-65s, and people with chronic health conditions). It’s perfectly safe to have it if you aren’t in one of these groups, but flu is a serious illness and most adults who are otherwise healthy will have the capacity to fight it off. Keep the flu vaccine reserves for those who really need it.
DOES CHICKEN SOUP REALLY CURE THE SNIFFLES?
There is no single treatment for a cold. The reality is that if you’re eating hot, homemade food such as chicken and stew, it’ll always make you feel better, because it’s rehydrating. If someone else has made it for you, then that in itself is very therapeutic, because you’ve had someone else looking after you.