It’s getting to the time of year where the cough of a co-worker or fellow commuter isn’t an innocuous crackling exhalation, but a threat to your well-being. Shaking hands becomes a gamble. Runny noses are a sign of someone falling and promising to take you with them. And one day you’re going to walk into your office and be greeted with a swathe of empty chairs, as they’re all taken by sickness in one, fell swoop.
But before you reach for the chicken soup and call your mum about that one piece of advice she gave you but you can’t quite remember, let’s sort through the myths of the flu and cold so we know what dealing with.
Myth – I’m too young, beautiful and healthy to get the flu!
FACT – no matter your age, levels of health, or aesthetic appeal, you are still able to get the flu.
BUT – the most at-risk groups tend to be the very young, very old, and those in poor health.
Your best option is always to get vaccinated, as this can help you avoid the flu and passing it onto people that may have more adverse reactions to the virus.
And while we’re talking about vaccines…
Myth – you can get the flu from the flu vaccine
FACT – vaccines only contain dead or inactive viral particles of the flu. It takes time to form the antibodies to the vaccine – around two weeks – which is plenty of time for a cold or flu that had already been developing to start showing symptoms.
BUT – some people can feel drowsy, tired, and have a mild temperature in the two days after getting the vaccine. These are common side effects and treatment is not usually required (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/flu-influenza-immunisation)
But that doesn’t mean that…
Myth – the flu vaccine doesn’t work
FACT – it’s not 100% effective, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work at all. Flu evolves, hence why we have to take a shot every year to counter the new strain of virus. The vaccines’ success rate is between 60-90%, which is much, much higher than not working at all. It also has the bonus effect of slowing down the spread, meaning those more vulnerable to the virus are less likely to get it.
Myth – cold weather causes the flu
FACT – not directly. People act fairly predictably; when it’s hot, they fling themselves into the ocean. When it’s cold, they spend their time indoors, meaning more time closer to other people who might be harbouring a virus that has nothing but ill-intentions for you and your current levels of comfort.
Myth – you have to touch someone to get the flu
FACT – unfortunately, those sneezes and coughs release the flu into the air where it can survive on outside surfaces for up to 24 hours. This does not mean we recommend you hug or hold hands with someone who has the flu – feel free to treat them as the sticky snotty person they are for the duration of their sickness.
Myth – the flu and the cold are the same thing
FACT – While the flu and the cold may share some common symptoms, colds normally start with a runny nose, while the flu normally begins with feeling of dryness in the throat. Also, the flu normally last longer and has harsher effects, such as body pain and high fevers.
Myth – you can sweat out the flu
FACT – you can wear as many clothes as you want, hit the sauna and think happy hot thoughts, it’s not going to make a difference. It takes around two weeks to expunge a cold from your system, and while your body will naturally raise its body temperature to try and kill any viral infection, the DYI approach isn’t particularly helpful.
Myth – stress can increase your chance of catching a cold
FACT – you could have reached a state of perfect zen on in a pleasantly warm field next to a bubbling creek and still catch a cold. While stress, depression and anxiety can impact our immune system, colds come from germs, and they don’t care how stressed you are with that upcoming report.
BUT – being stressed out can make it harder to recover from cold symptoms, again indirectly. If you’re stressed, you may try to work through the cold, impeding your recovery time, or you may find the time off is allowing you to ‘catch up’ on sleep and relaxation that you probably needed before you got sick.
The best way to recover from cold and flu
It’s pretty simple – keep your fluids up, eat properly (don’t starve yourself or pig out), and get plenty of rest. Give yourself a break and don’t try to power through it. At best, you’ll just feel terrible while doing it, and at worst, you’re going to slow down your recovery time.
Get to bed, get some water and tea, and binge on whatever show you’ve been saving for such a day.
Good luck this cold and flu season!
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