The truth about those nasty cold and flu bugs

The old saying Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever is based on the belief that the heat generated from digesting food will warm the body when you have a ‘cold’; and avoiding eating will cool you down when you have a fever. Both are myths.

The truth is that food gives your immune system the extra energy it needs to fight illness.

So, when you are sick, it is essential to support your body by resting, eating healthy food and drinking plenty of water.

I opened the window and in flew ‘Enza’

‘Flu’ is a nickname for the highly contagious virus called ‘influenza’, which invades the cells of your body. The most common symptoms of flu are fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing and feeling tired.

Fever is an outward sign that your body is ramping up to fight the bugs. The battle burns lots of energy, which increases your body temperature.

Your body then needs more energy and fluids to maintain its core temperature.

Flu can cause life-threatening illness in vulnerable people such as babies and small children, the elderly and those with compromised immunity.

Bugs Love Cold and Dry

The ‘cold’ derives its name from a long-held belief that you could catch a cold (or ‘chill’) from being exposed to wintery weather. The real reason is that influenza, and the many viruses that cause colds, survive longer outside the body in the cold, dry air of late autumn and early spring.

The likelihood of getting sick in the cooler months also increases because we spend more time indoors where viruses have more chance to pass from one person to another.

Hit and Myth

Influenza Vaccine: Many people believe a ‘flu shot’ can give you the flu. The vaccine only contains a few components of the virus – not the whole version – so you cannot catch the flu from the injection.

Vitamin C: Loading up on Vitamin C or D does not help prevent, or cure, a cold or flu. Once you are infected, you just need to wait it out and support your body to beat the bug.

Kissing: Viruses travel from one person’s nose/mouth/eyes to another’s inside tiny droplets of fluid. Kissing is an obvious source of transmission, but you can also pick up a virus from a handshake or a handrail. So, keep your hands away from your face!

I never get sick: Some people catch viruses, but experience mild or no symptoms themselves. They are called ‘asymptomatic carriers’. Although this is good for the carrier, they can unknowingly pass the virus on to vulnerable people. Even people who ‘never get sick’ should get an annual flu shot.

Medications: Cold and flu medications are not a cure, they will only relieve the symptoms. But they are worth taking because less coughing, sneezing and mucous reduces the chance of infecting others.