5 flu myths busted

December 11, 2013
flu myths

Myths about the flu are everywhere, making it difficult to tell the difference between what's fact and what's fiction. UC Irvine Health internist Dr. Emilie Chow busts five of the most common myths.

1. The vaccine will give you the flu.

The vaccine cannot give you the flu, says Dr. Emilie Chow, an internal medicine physician at UC Irvine Health.

"Don't be afraid of the vaccine," says Chow. "It can prevent the flu, and people die of that."

2. You can always tell when it's the flu.

Not necessarily. “Flu is a continuum,” Chow says of the respiratory viruses. “It can look a lot like a cold.”

Although the primary symptoms of the flu are a high fever, chills and body ache, Chow notes that a runny nose, sore throat or cough could be the flu, as well.

“Some people are really affected by the flu, while some people believe they have a cold when it’s really the flu.”

3. If you're healthy, you don't need to be vaccinated.

That isn't true, cautions Chow. Although some people are at greater risk of getting sick - including the elderly, pregnant women and those with medical conditions - anyone can get sick, including healthy, active individuals.

4. Feed a cold, starve a fever.

“There is no recommended diet for the cold or flu,” says Chow. “The main thing is to not get dehydrated, so you should drink lots of fluids.”

Chow does caution against eating new, exotic or heavy foods. Instead, she advises to stick to a bland diet, get rest and go easy on your stomach.

5. Antibiotics help you fight the flu.

Antibiotics work on bacterial infections, not viruses like the flu, Chow says. The flu, however, can lead to pneumonia and ear infections, which can be treated with antibiotics.

There are antiviral medications that are effective at treating the virus and easing symptoms, but they need to be prescribed within the first 1 or 2 days after symptoms appear.