Flu season is upon us once again, and although we are getting better at battling perennial viruses, there are still gaps in our collective knowledge.
The easiest way to help avoid the flu is to get the shot. But if inoculation isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty you can do to prevent coming down with it.
Along with some help from our friends at CTV News, WebMD, and holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy, we sorted through the most useful remedies, from the shot to Granny’s famous chicken noodle soup, and dispel a few of the most common myths that surround cold and flu season.
True or false: Leaving the house with wet hair will make you sick
False: Remember, the flu is a virus, and simply being cold can’t make you catch one. The only way to catch a virus is to come into contact with it. It’s not the cold weather making us sick, but the fact that we all huddle together inside buildings at this time of year and spread our germs around. Warm, but gross.
True or false: Chicken noodle soup is a cold and flu butt-kicker
True: Mom got this one right. Chicken noodle soup helps to mobilize specialized white blood cells that fight infection. It also gets your mucuses moving; yes, it can nasty, but this is a good thing.
True or false: Echinacea will do you a world of good
True: “This one is my absolute favourite, and there’s good research behind it,” says McCarthy. “It’s great to take during the early onset as it can help reduce the severity and duration of the sickness.”
True or false: Zinc lozenges work
True: This one’s all truth. Zinc has both antibacterial and antiviral properties, making it a reliable weapon come flu season. The fact that they taste awful is also, unfortunately, true.
True or False: A vitamin C a day keeps the doctor away
True and False: We apologize for sitting on the fence on this one, but vitamin C is only any good to you if you’re deficient in it. The extra vitamin C isn’t going to hurt you, but if your system isn’t missing it, it won’t help you either. Pro tip: Eat an actual orange (1 tsp. of sugar) instead of a glass of OJ (4-6 tsp. of sugar). McCarthy also suggests eating other orange winter fruits and veggies (squash, yams, carrots) for their immunity building properties.
True or false: You should feed a cold and starve a fever
False: This traditional belief might make sense on the surface—you want to raise the temperature of the body with a good meal when you have a cold, and vice versa for a fever—but the fact is that you always need to be getting your nutrients. Eat, and if you can’t eat, drink. And drink lots.
True or false: The flu vaccine can cause the flu
False: The flu vaccine may contain dead viruses (or none at all), which may be creepy, but won’t cause you to catch the virus. Your arm might hurt and you may have a fever, but it’s not the flu, just a reaction to the shot. So suck it up.
True or false: As a healthy adult, I don’t need the flu shot
False: Everyone six months and older should get the flu shot every year. It will help protect against the three or four virus strands most likely to wreak havoc each season. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?
True or false: If you’re not feverish, you’re not contagious
False: Viruses are resilient little buggers, and you can spread/catch them before symptoms show, during the sickness and even up to a week after symptoms abate (sometimes even longer for those with weak immune systems).
True or false: You can’t catch a flu if you don’t go near anyone
False: You can catch the flu from anyone who has it by coming into contact not just with them (it’s airborne up to six feet), but also by touching anything they’ve touched. Door handles, phones, money…good luck avoiding it all.