Common Cold and Flu Myths

Flu season remedies, flu shot risks and miracle cold products are not always what they appear to be

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

With cold and flu season well underway, popular myths about these unwanted holiday visitors are circulating along with the sniffles.

Below are some common myths about the flu, colds and popular treatments — and tips for staying healthy during flu season.

Flu Shots Cause the Flu

Flu vaccines contain components of the common flu viruses of that season, but there is no chance that flu shots will make healthy people sick.

The CDC debunked this myth, saying the ingredients in the vaccine are inactive.

Sometimes, however, patients have already come down with the flu, but symptoms haven’t yet appeared when they go to get the shot. Symptoms of the flu may not show up until up to seven days after exposure to the virus, according to MedlinePlus. These coincidences may be responsible for the false concern.

You only need the flu shot once a year, so getting it in the winter or spring means you’ll still be covered when the first signs of the flu start to show up in the fall.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated for the flu each year. Ask your doctor before getting vaccinated.

Miracle Products

Products marketed as quick fixes to cold and flu viruses have been found to do little for the body other than act as a placebo.

Some evidence suggests that taking high doses of vitamin C and zinc can relieve cold symptoms, according to a study published in the Journal of International Medical Research. Both of these ingredients are often in cold and flu products, and they can be also be purchased in higher doses as generic versions.

But you might also be able to get vitamin C and zinc in your diet. Many fruits and vegetables, such as oranges and bell peppers, are high in vitamin C. And zinc is readily available in yogurt and cheese.

'Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever'

Whether you have a cold, flu or just a generic fever, be sure to get enough nutrients and fluids to let your body heal.

But overeating won’t help either, so simply eat as you normally would — but take in more fluids.

If you don’t have much of an appetite, try eating soup. Soup can replenish fluids but still provide some extra nutrition.

However, antiviral medications — such as Tamiflu (brand name zanamivir) — can get right to the source so you can get better faster. Only take these medications with a doctor's approval.

For patients with high-risk respiratory factors, such as asthma, chronic lung diseases and kidney diseases, these medications can mean the difference between a short illness and a hospital stay, the CDC reports.

Review Date: 
December 30, 2014