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5 Cold and Flu Season Myths

Here we debunk myths about the cold and the flu and provide facts.

Woman battling a cold, drinking tea and blowing her nose
Getty Images/PonyWang/E+

Cold and flu season is a bummer, but it's something we all get stuck dealing with. Whether you're run down with your own cold or taking care of a flu-stricken kid, these illnesses are just part of life. There's a lot that people don't know about cold and flu season, though, and a lot more that people think they do know but turn out to be myths. 

Cold and flu myths

There's quite a lot people don't realize about the cold and the flu -- and plenty of things that people think that are actually not true. Let us debunk a few of those myths so you can better understand cold and flu season. 

1. The flu vaccine causes the flu

One of the biggest misconceptions about the flu shot is that people think it causes them to get the flu. The flu vaccine is actually made with a weakened or inactivated strain of the flu, which will not get you sick. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, the vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect, so it's not uncommon for people to get sick during that two-week window simply because the flu is going around and the vaccine hasn't had time to do its work.  

2. Going outside with wet hair in the winter will cause you to catch a cold

You've probably heard this one for years: Going outside in cold weather with wet hair will lead to catching a cold. This actually isn't true. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a cold has to be caused by a virus, which you won't get from wet hair in cold temperatures. While they note colder temperatures are better breeding grounds for viruses, the cold hair doesn't have anything to do with catching a cold.

3. You don't need a flu vaccine if you're healthy

Anyone can catch the flu, regardless of how healthy they are. The NFID recommends everyone get a flu vaccine starting at 6 months old to protect against catching the flu.

4. You don't need a flu shot every year

The flu is different every year because it mutates. That means every year you need a new flu vaccine, which also changes every year. The vaccine is created from the flu strain, so every year, a new vaccine is needed for the new strain of the flu, according to Harvard Medical School.

5. Chicken soup can help beat a cold

While your chicken soup may make you feel more cozier if you're run down from a cold, there's no medical evidence that it can actually help get rid of the cold. The University of Rochester Medical Center notes that the steam coming off hot soup can act as a humidifier and loosen up your sinuses, but that's about it. There's no harm in eating the soup while you're sick, though, so go ahead and keep doing it if it's something that's tasty and comforting while you're feeling crummy. 

Cold and flu facts

Woman getting a flu shot
Getty Images/Luis Alvarez/DigitalVision

Having concrete information about cold and flu season can help keep you healthy and ward off any sickness. Here's what you should know.

1. The flu is mostly spread through the air

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu is spread by tiny droplets that are typically transmitted when people cough, sneeze, talk, or sing. It is far less common for the flu to be transmitted on surfaces. However, it is possible for those tiny droplets to land on surfaces and then get picked up by another person who touches it and then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes.

2. Adults get 2 to 4 colds per year

On average, an adult can get anywhere from two to four colds in a year, according to the American Lung Association. This, of course, varies based on your lifestyle and how well you protect yourself from sickness, but two colds is not uncommon.

3. Children are more likely to get the flu than adults

A study done by Clinical Infectious Diseases found that children under the age of 18 are twice as likely to get the flu compared to adults ages 65 and older. 

4. There is no cure for the cold

Many things can relieve cold symptoms, like decongestants and antihistamines, but according to the CDC, nothing will actually cure the common cold. The best you can do for yourself is to take the proper dosages of each remedy and allow yourself to rest.

5. You can spread the flu even if you don't feel sick

You are the most contagious at the beginning of having the flu, but some people don't feel symptoms immediately. That means you can have the virus, feel OK and still spread it to people around you. According to the CDC, you can also remain contagious after you've become sick, though it's less common.

Bottom line

Arming yourself with knowledge about colds and the flu can help you prevent getting sick. Opting for a flu shot every year is your first line of defense in preventing the flu, but just know that colds are almost unavoidable. Take care of yourself this cold and flu season, and you'll be feeling better in no time.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.