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Top 13 Flu Myths

What’s the truth about the flu, and what’s myth?

Flu Myth #4: There is no treatment for the flu.

Two antiviral drugs are highly effective against the flu: Tamiflu, in pill form, and Relenza, which is inhaled. These drugs are most effective if taken within 48 hours of your first flu symptoms. But the drugs are beneficial even if taken 48 hours after symptom onset.

Neither Tamiflu nor Relenza cures the flu. But they can reduce the amount of time you’re sick by one or two days and make you less contagious to others. These drugs work with both the typical strains of seasonal flu as well as swine flu.

 

Flu Myth #5: Antibiotics can fight the flu.

Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Flu -- whether it’s typical seasonal flu or swine flu -- is not caused by bacteria, but by a virus. So antibiotics have absolutely no effect on any kind of flu. But this message just won’t sink in for some people.

“We still have oodles of patients coming into the doctors, or bringing their children to the doctors, who want antibiotics for influenza,” says Schaffner. 

However, there are instances of flu complications that involve bacterial infection.  The flu virus can weaken your body and allow bacterial invaders to infect you.  Secondary bacterial infections to the flu include bronchitis, ear infections, sinusitis, and most often, pneumonia.  

Some patients with flu want antibiotics just in case they might develop a complication. But Hay says this attempt at prevention doesn’t work. It could make things worse. “If you take antibiotics unnecessarily and then really do wind up with a secondary bacterial infection, then it might be resistant to those antibiotics,” Hay tells WebMD.

If your flu symptoms are getting better and then suddenly get worse, call your doctor. This may be a sign of a bacterial co-infection.

Flu Myth #6: The flu is only dangerous for the elderly.

It’s true that the people most likely to become seriously ill or die from the seasonal flu are over age 65. But flu can become risky for anyone, even healthy young adults. Some of the most susceptible people to seasonal influenza are young children. Ninety percent of H1N1 swine flu deaths have been in people under age 65, while 90% of seasonal flu deaths are in the elderly. And both seasonal and pandemic flu are particularly dangerous for very young children.

“Children under 2 years have some of the highest rates of hospitalization from [seasonal] flu,” says Hay. Children under 6 months are at the most risk from the seasonal flu because they’re too young to get the vaccine. 

To protect infants from the flu, keep babies away from people who have the flu. Parents and caretakers of infants should get vaccinated.

 

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