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What is the difference between a cold and the flu? Here are 10 common flu queries you can myth bust.

Professor Robert Booy, head of the clinical research team at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance offers the following advice for customers.

1. Myth: A cold and flu are the same thing

Truth: This might be one of the biggest flu myths of all. A lot of people confuse the common cold with flu but they are different. A cold is a mild infection, whereas the flu can be like a cold or a more severe viral infection. The flu however has more severe symptoms including aches and pains, cough, fever and lethargy.On the whole, the flu can be far more serious than a cold, particularly if the viral infection travels down the lungs and causes pneumonia.

2. Myth: The flu is not life-threatening

Truth: The flu can still be fatal. Back in 1918 and 1919 the Spanish flu epidemic killed up to 50 million people – more lives lost than in World War I. Humans have been suffering from flu for centuries and it is estimated that half a percent of the world’s population diagnosed with flu have died from the virus. This adds up to roughly a hundred million people dying from flu historically.

3. Myth: I’m young and healthy and only elderly people get the flu

Truth: This is a persistent myth that unfortunately sticks around year after year. While the elderly are in an at-risk group, anyone and everyone can catch the flu. This is even true of people who are fit and healthy. It’s also important to note that you can unknowingly infect others a day or two before you start to show symptoms.

4. Myth: I’m hygienic, so I’ll be fine

Truth: While frequent handwashing and avoiding contact with others when sick will help prevent spreading the flu, the truth is prevention through maintaining good hygiene isn’t foolproof. Influenza is spread through air droplets of infected saliva that land in your mouth, nose and eyes so can sometimes be unavoidable if you’re around infected people.

5. Myth: I’ll be fine with lemon and honey

Truth: While lemon and honey are helpful antibacterial agents, the most effective protection against the flu is vaccination.

6. Cold and flu products work the same way

Many people lump cold and flu in the same category, so it’s important to note the differences between the two illnesses. Over the counter medication can help treat the symptoms of cold and flu, but won’t impact the longevity of the illness or prevent you from contracting the virus. The most effective prevention of the flu is vaccination.

7. Myth: I could get the flu from the flu vaccine

Truth: You cannot catch the flu from a flu vaccine. Some people do experience side-effects from the vaccine, which include fever, muscle ache and headache. However, this doesn’t mean you have the flu, and you won’t experience any respiratory infection, runny nose, cough, or sore throat. If you do experience those symptoms, it’s very likely you contracted the flu before getting the vaccination. Influenza vaccines won’t give you the flu, as the vaccines available in Australia don’t contain any ‘live’ viruses. After vaccination, the person will develop antibody levels that are likely to protect them against the strains of virus represented in the vaccine.

8. Myth: I can get vaccinated in winter

Truth: Getting vaccinated against the flu is far more effective when done during Autumn (March – May) in anticipation of Australia’s peak flu season, which is usually between June and September.

9. Myth: I got vaccinated last year, so I will be fine for this year

Truth: Flu viruses constantly change and mutate which means last year’s flu vaccine may not cover this year’s flu strain. New vaccines are developed every year to ensure we’re protecting ourselves against the virus circulating this year. Annual vaccination is recommended as the most effective protection against the flu.

 10. Myth: I don’t have time to wait at the doctor

Truth: Many pharmacies now administer the vaccine. If you don’t have time to go to the doctor, you can also see your local pharmacy to book a vaccination appointment to protect yourself against flu before winter strikes.Visit to keep up-to-date with the latest information and learn how to protect yourself from influenza. To download the science podcast ‘Going Viral’, visit



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