How much do you really know about the flu? Naturopath Jodi Van Dyk disperses a few common myths.
With the flu becoming a more talked about topic online and in the blogosphere, it’s easy to take inaccurate information on board. Try to be armed with as much reliable information as possible.
What is influenza?
Influenza is caused by a highly contagious virus that is spread from person to person via sneezing and/or coughing.
Symptoms generally include high fever, aches and pains and a dry cough (also referred to as an unproductive cough).
Myth 1: The cold and the flu are practically the same thing
Many people mistake the flu for a cold because some of the symptoms are similar. Generally, flu symptoms last longer than cold symptoms. The flu causes a high fever, muscular pains and shivering attacks. It usually starts with a dry sensation in the nose and throat, while colds cause a runny nose.
Myth 2: If you've had the flu you can’t get it again
Influenza is actually caused by three different types of influenza virus – A, B and C. The flu virus has a unique ability to change its surface structure, meaning it can escape recognition by the body’s immune system. It is possible that even though you have had the flu once, you may be exposed to a different type of virus that could cause the illness again.
Myth 3: Cold weather can cause the flu
Colder weather does signal the start of the flu season, but the cold does not cause you to contract the flu. The influence that the colder weather may have on the flu is that we tend to spend more time indoors, with others and with heaters on, in ideal conditions for the flu virus to spread.
Our immune systems may also be slightly more compromised during this time of year as we may change our diet and exercise regimes. The best way to stay armed against the flu is to maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, keep active and wash your hands regularly.
Myth 4: The flu is only dangerous for the elderly
While those aged 65 and over are most at risk of a complication from the flu, you may also be at risk if you have an underlying medical condition, serious disease, or are pregnant.
The importance of hand washing in flu season
Influenza germs can live on surfaces, so if someone in your home, office or school that is infected has touched a door knob, desk, hand rail, fridge, etc, chances are there will still be some virus particles hanging around.
It’s a good idea to frequently wash your hands to get rid of those nasties and follow these steps:
- Always use soap and warm water Be sure to wash your hands for 15-20 seconds.
- Remove or wash under rings and watches and be sure to get into the spaces between fingers
- Preferably use a paper towel to dry your hands as you can be sure there are not left over bacteria from the previous person
- Be sure to keep hands away from mouth, eyes and nose as another way to prevent the spread of the flu
References available on request