Let’s get some facts straight and fight back against some common myths about colds and flu.

Myth (1) – Flu is just a heavy cold

The flu and colds are different. Firstly, the flu usually lasts longer and causes more severe symptoms, even worse than a heavy cold. Secondly, the flu is caused by one of three viruses called influenza A, B or C. In contrast, colds are caused by up to 200 viruses, with the most common being rhinoviruses (rhino means nose). Lastly, while there’s no vaccination against colds, the flu vaccination is very effective.

Myth (2) – Only caught from coughs and sneezes

In addition to coughs and sneezes, colds and flu are caught through hand contact. For example, an infected person sneezes on their hand, then opens a door, touching the handle, which you touch afterwards and, if you touch your nose, can lead to an infection. Regularly cleaning your hands with soap or an antiseptic is a good preventive measure.

Myth (3) – Can be treated with antibiotics

Antibiotics only fight bacteria. Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent medication for cold and flu viruses. The only medications that may help simply treat the symptoms of colds or flu. For example, antivirals can shorten the duration of a flu, paracetamol can reduce fever or decongestants may help a runny nose.

Myth (4) – Alternative treatments good for prevention

Vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc are popular, however the medical research shows there’s not enough proof that they’re effective for prevention. On the other hand, while Echinacea doesn’t seem to help with symptom relief, vitamin C taken long term may shorten a cold and make it less severe, and zinc may also shorten a cold when taken within 24 hours of symptoms appearing, although it can also cause an unpleasant taste in the mouth and nausea.

See your GP for the flu vaccination. For more information http://www.nhs.uk/

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