With flu season rapidly approaching during a global pandemic, we are constantly bombarded with information about disease prevention and how to stay healthy. To set the record straight on this important information, we at the Global Health team want to discuss a few myths and facts about the flu, COVID-19, and staying healthy this fall and winter.
MYTH: The flu is the same as a bad cold.
FACT: The flu is typically a more serious illness than a cold and the two are caused by completely different viruses. If you have a cold, chances are your symptoms started gradually and include sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, and a cough. Symptoms of the flu usually start more suddenly and can be similar to those of a cold, but also often include a fever, headache, body aches, and extreme fatigue. It is very uncommon to become severely ill with a cold, but the flu can have much more serious complications. If you think you have a cold or the flu, you should stay home to avoid spreading the infection, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and drink plenty of water. You can avoid both of these illnesses by washing your hands frequently, and you can reduce your risk of getting the flu by getting your flu shot every year!
MYTH: You can have lifelong protection from a virus, like those that cause the flu and COVID-19, if you’ve had it once during your lifetime.
FACT: The flu virus changes from year to year, so getting sick with the flu one year, or getting your flu shot one year, does not guarantee immunity forever. This is why it’s important to get your flu shot every year. Furthermore, there have been many reported cases of individuals being re-infected with COVID-19, meaning that getting COVID-19 and recovering from it does not grant immunity. For a lot of healthy young adults, both the flu and COVID-19 may result in a range of mild-to-severe symptoms. Even if these illnesses don’t feel like a threat, it’s important to keep in mind that protecting yourself also protects others, like very young children, older adults, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, who are more likely to suffer severe, if not fatal, symptoms.
MYTH: COVID-19 is not that different from the flu.
FACT: The flu and COVID-19 do share some common symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, headache, and body aches. COVID-19 may include additional symptoms, including a sudden loss of taste and/or smell, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. People may experience any combination of these symptoms. Due to the similarity of the symptoms, a diagnosis can only be confirmed through diagnostic testing. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, please see the latest testing guidelines posted by Ottawa Public Health to see if you qualify for a test.
MYTH: You can’t spread the flu or COVID-19 if you feel well.
FACT: If you are sick, it is important to stay home! Even if you have no symptoms, it is completely possible for you to transmit a virus to those you are in close contact with. You can prevent others from becoming sick by avoiding public gatherings and focusing on feeling better. To do so, it is important to get enough sleep to give your body a chance to heal. Furthermore, eating a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated by drinking water helps boost your immune system. Also, if you need to cough or sneeze, it is best to do so into a tissue or the bend of your elbow. Wash your hands often with soap and water to remove viruses and prevent others and yourself from becoming sick.
We hope that this information helps you stay flu-and-COVID-19 free in the coming months. For the most up-to-date information, visit your local public health authority’s website, such as the one hosted by Ottawa Public Health. Take care!
This article was written by Health Promotion Peer Educators:
Kiera Levesque (4th year, Biomedical Sciences), Joshua Bani (3rd year, Psychology), Isabelle Guindon (2nd year, Nutrition Science), Violet Mickhail (3rd year, Health Sciences).