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Myths About Spreading and Catching Germs

With flu season approaching and the coronavirus still hanging over our heads, people are focusing on staying healthy. The Internet provides endless information and advice to prevent sickness. But is it all true? It is important to identify what is true and what may be a myth when it comes to information about germs in order to gain a greater understanding of how you can avoid getting sick. Throughout this article, we will share facts and bust myths about germs.

Myth 1: Wearing gloves can prevent catching germs

Hate to tell you, but wearing gloves—whether winter gloves or surgical gloves—isn’t helpful.

Gloves are not a perfect form of protection. Rather, they are like a second skin. They pick up the same pathogens as you would with your bare hands, and according to Flushing Hospital Medical Center, they can become potential transmitters.

After we have touched a door or an escalator, which are both breeding grounds for viruses, we might use our gloves to scratch our noses or eyes. In these cases, wearing gloves may exacerbate the transmission because it is very unlikely that we will thoroughly wash our gloves with soap and water. Viruses will stay on gloves for at least two to three days. Therefore, gloves are only useful if they can remind you not to touch your face.

With winter around the corner, gloves may quickly become a necessity. Here are a few reminders to stay safe when wearing them:

  • Always wash your hands after taking gloves off

  • Turn the gloves inside out while pulling it away

  • Wash and scrub cotton or wool gloves thoroughly with soap and water after every use

For a detailed visual on the procedure of taking off gloves, check out this guide from the CDC.

Myth 2: You need antibiotics for the flu

Wrong! Antibiotics are specifically made to kill bacteria, not viruses like the flu. Taking antibiotics when you have a virus does more harm than good. If you do find yourself feeling better after taking antibiotics, it is likely that you were already on the road to recovery!

Antibiotics do not fight the flu or flu symptoms (Harvard Health Publishing)

Antibiotics kill bacteria. Your immune system is the one who fights the virus. Due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, antibiotic resistance occurs, making antibiotics useless against curing the infections they are meant to treat. Before taking antibiotics, make sure you have a bacteria culture test. It takes a few days, but for the sake of your health, it is worth waiting. Click here for more information on bacteria culture tests.

Myth 3: Healthy people don’t need the flu vaccine

Although certain groups are at a higher risk for encountering flu complications, everyone is susceptible to contracting the flu. Once infected, you can become contagious and spread the virus to others. Healthy individuals may be able to fight the virus easily, but that does not mean they are less likely to catch it or are immune to symptoms.

In fact, individual vaccinations have prevented thousands of hospital visits and illnesses from happening every flu season. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, in 2018-2019, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 58,000 flu-related hospitalizations.

Even healthy individuals require vaccination to be protected from viruses (CBC News)

Another bonus to vaccinations is that it can make illnesses less severe. Studies have shown that flu symptoms are less severe after vaccination. A new study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.

Getting the flu shot each year is vital. But why? Flu viruses evolve extremely quickly; thus, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses. New vaccines are released every year to keep your immune system up to date.

Myth 4: Flu and the common cold are the same

Although the two illnesses may share similar symptoms like sore throat, sneezing, and cough, flu is usually more severe and quick. In Canada, an average of 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths related to the flu occur each year.

Flu is not simply a bad cold. Most cold viruses will go away when we give our immune system some time to fight it. In the case of the flu, you are encouraged to get vaccinated—as mentioned above, you can get milder symptoms and recover without the use of medication.

It is also important to remember that flu and COVID-19 are different. They are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but the current novel coronavirus is caused by SARS-CoV-2 , whereas the flu is caused by influenza viruses.

Myth 5: You can catch the flu from the vaccine

If you have ever gotten the flu after receiving the flu shot, you may assume that the vaccine is what made you ill. This, however, is not true. A flu shot is made from an inactivated or weakened virus that can’t transmit infection. It takes about two weeks to get protection from the vaccine, as our body needs time to develop antibodies. So, if you experience symptoms after you get vaccinated, you were most likely infected before you got the flu shot.

Myth 6: Vitamin C can cure a cold

Vitamin C is indeed an important vitamin for immune defense. However, in a July 2007 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, it was found that when taken after a cold starts, vitamin C supplements do not make a cold shorter or less severe. Taking vitamin C after associating with cold systems does not appear to be beneficial. So what does this mean? If you just start popping vitamin C once you are already sick, it will not do much to speed your recovery. The best way to recover is a night of good old-fashioned sleep.

Wellvita Vitamin C Tablets—although an important vitamin, it does not cure a cold (Wellvita)

Myth 7: Feed a cold, starve a fever

This is common advice you’ve heard again and again. The answer? This is a myth. In reality, you should feed both a cold and a fever.

Whether you have a cold or a fever, your immune system is fighting very hard, and eating less can be extremely dangerous. Good nutrition and calories provide the energy to create and assemble the large number of immune cells needed to fight the enemy. According to Harvard Health Publishing, there’s no need to eat more or less than usual. Drink plenty of fluids and eat healthful foods.

Another study published in the journal Rhinology showed that consuming warm liquids provides immediate and sustained relief from symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.

Hydration is key in recovery (SF Gate)

To conclude, do not let these myths get in the way of proper medical treatment! Whether it is amidst the flu season, the coronavirus pandemic, or any other diseases, you should always take the necessary steps to stay safe and strong. Spread the word and correct any misconceptions you come upon. Together, we can combat the infectious spread of germs by educating ourselves, educating others, and prioritizing health and safety. For additional tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, check out this article by Race To A Cure!


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Featured image is courtesy of Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels.

Article Author: Michelle Lam

Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Sherilyn Wen