The Myths about Colds and Flu

Every time you get a cold or flu, you can be sure that everyone you meet will have some advice to give.

Out of all these many stories connected with both colds and flu, who gets it, how we get it, what we should or shouldn't do to avoid it, and so on – it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. But let's take a look at some of the most often repeated myths about colds and flu, to see exactly what's true, and what is not!

1. Having flu is like having a heavy cold

FALSE:  While it's true that cold and flu symptoms, like coughing, a blocked nose or headaches, can seem the same, they are two very different illnesses. Some cold and flu remedies are suitable for both conditions because they offer the same relief from symptoms, regardless of whether it's a cold or flu. Generally speaking however, flu symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer. Flu is caused by different viruses than those which cause there are unique symptoms such as a sudden rise in body temperature, which is not normally seen with a . Flu also comes with a risk of complications that could make it far more serious, particularly with young children and the elderly.

2. Flu can be treated with antibiotics

FALSE: Antibiotics have no effect on the viruses that cause a cold or those that cause flu. Antivirals, however, have been seen to have some positive effect. They may relieve some of the symptoms of flu, reduce the potential for serious complications and can have some impact on shortening the length of time that you are ill.

3. Fit and healthy people don't get colds or flu

FALSE: Anyone, young or old, fit or otherwise, can be infected with a cold or a flu virus. Similarly, we are all capable of passing on the virus to others. But what is true is that those of us with certain conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may be at higher risk of developing complications if infected with the flu virus. So, if you find yourself coming down with a cold or flu, you should always take every precaution not to pass it on to anyone, by coughing and sneezing into tissues, and disposing of them safely and quickly.

4. You will catch a cold or flu if you get cold or wet

FALSE: Being cold can't simply result in you ‘catching a ’ as if it had appeared from nowhere, but if your body gets cold and wet, it can create the right conditions for a dormant cold or flu virus (one that is already in your body) to become active. In this situation, the virus could then start to multiply, which could lead to cold or flu symptoms. So, wrapping in warm clothing on cold days and keeping dry when it's wet may help prevent a dormant virus from becoming active.

5. You can only catch cold and flu through breathing the same air as an infected person.

FALSE: It is certainly a fact that cold and flu viruses can travel through the air. So when a person infected with one of these viruses sneezes or coughs on or near you, you could get infected. However, these viruses are not just spread through the air. Touching an infected surface could result in transferring the virus onto your hands. Infected surfaces could include a telephone, door handle, computer keyboard or child's toy, for example. The flu virus can survive on a hard surface for 24 hours. Once on your hands, it can get into your body when you rub your eyes, or touch your nose or mouth. The key is to wash your hands thoroughly and often if you have a cold or flu, or if you're in an environment where someone else has an infection. Also keep hand sanitisers in your bag or purse, and use them when you touch areas of common use as listed earlier.

We hope that clears up a few of the myths associated with cold and flu, but if you are ever in any doubt about what to do about them, always speak to a medical .


All information presented is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health matters please contact your doctor. Nurofen contains ibuprofen. For pain relief. Always read the label.