12 Flu “Myths” That Are Actually True

By | February 13, 2019

The flu can survive longer on door handles than you realize, sneeze droplets can fly, and some folks actually need two flu shots. Get the facts.

True: The flu virus can live awhile on surfaces

12 Flu "Myths" That Are Actually TrueMaxal Tamor/Shutterstock

If you think living organisms like viruses and bacteria die quickly when they’re not infecting you, think again. The flu virus can live on hard surfaces up to one day; it can live in the air in moisture droplets (like those caused by a sneeze) for several hours, too. On your skin, however, it dies rapidly: The virus will only last five minutes on your hands. On other parts of your body, it may linger up to 15 minutes. That’s still plenty of time for you to bring the virus from a surface to your hands and then to your nose or mouth.

“The most common way the flu virus is spread is when hands that have been in contact with contaminated surfaces go near your face,” says Papatya Tankut, RPh, vice president of pharmacy affairs at CVS Health. “That’s why you should wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleanser.” Just watch out for these 10 hand-washing mistakes everyone makes.

True: It’s a bad idea to wait to get the flu shot

12 Flu "Myths" That Are Actually TrueYuriy Golub/Shutterstock

You can build a natural immunity to the flu—but to do that, you’d have to get sick first. Don’t fall for the thinking that it’s better to wait until the middle of the flu season to get a shot. Flu activity is highest in December and February, which means you should get your shot no later than the end of October, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And if you think you’re already sick, here are 11 things you should do at the first sign of the flu.

True: Cold air can make you sick

12 Flu "Myths" That Are Actually TrueosArt/Shutterstock

“Going out into the cold won’t make you sick,” says Saralyn Mark, MD, president and CEO of SolaMed Solutions, LLC. “But if you are in the cold often, you increase the chance you could get infected.”

Here’s how that works, she says: “Physiologically, your body adapts to the cold by allowing your mucous membranes to dry up. That mucus is a great defense mechanism. It gets stuff out of your body that you don’t want in it. When it dries up, you don’t have the protection, and a virus can get in.” Don’t miss these 20 things the flu virus doesn’t want you to know.

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