The myths about treating flu that you need to stop believing

Cold and flu season is well and truly upon us, and as a result, many of us are seeking out ways to prevent the dreaded bugs from affecting us and our families. But new research has shown that a lot of the advice you hear around this time of year – think ‘starve a fever’, or ‘drink a hot toddy’ – could make your symptoms worse.

The survey, commissioned by Well Pharmacy, revealed that one fifth of UK adults fear that the flu jab can give them flu, while 10 per cent believe that going out in the cold, especially with wet hair, can make them vulnerable to the illness. The two most common methods used to ward off flu were dosing up on vitamin C and drinking a hot toddy, but neither of these solutions are as effective as you might think.

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And things get even more confused in those trying to treat flu that they’ve already caught -one in four think you should sweat out the fever, nearly a fifth believe you should starve it, and 16 per cent think the illness can be ‘cured’ by chicken soup. However, as pharmacist Jane Devenish, who works with Wells, explains, ‘nothing can really “cure” flu.’

So, to help solve the mysteries surrounding the sickness, Jane has broken down the most common myths about treating flu, and explained the benefits (and potential pitfalls!) of each:

The top 10 flu myths

1. A ‘hot toddy’ can help with flu symptoms: FALSE – alcohol actually lowers your immune system, lowering your body’s ability to ward off viruses like flu.

2. You should sweat out a fever: TRUE – sweating is how the body naturally cools down a fever. It’s important to reduce a fever by keeping cool and taking paracetamol.

3. Vitamin C can prevent flu: FALSE – there is no evidence that vitamin C prevents flu. The only way to prevent flu is with the flu jab.

4. The flu jab can give you flu: FALSE – the injected flu vaccine given to adults contains inactivated flu viruses, so it definitely cannot give you flu.

5. Starve a fever, feed a cold: FALSE – never starve your body.

6. A bowl of chicken soup will help cure flu: FALSE – chicken soup, like any fluids, is great for staying hydrated and nourishing your body which definitely helps recovery, but unfortunately nothing can really “cure” flu.

7. Eating garlic can prevent flu: FALSE – garlic does have some anti-viral properties but there is no evidence that it prevents flu.

8. Being outside in the cold can give you flu: FALSE – only the influenza virus gives you flu. However, there is some evidence that having a lower body temperature can lower your ability to fight off viruses, so listen to your grandmother’s advice and wrap up warm.

9. You can catch flu by going outside with wet hair: FALSE – being cold or wet cannot cause flu.

10. Antibiotics can cure flu: FALSE – antibiotics fight infections caused by bacteria, but the flu is cause by a virus. Taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good.

‘The only way to prevent flu is to get the flu jab,’ says Jane. ‘Even if you are not vulnerable or high risk, you’re likely to come into contact with someone who is, and it may have serious health consequences for them. So, I would urge everyone to get the flu jab this year, and every year, to protect themselves and their loved ones.’