Man flu and other cold and flu myths busted

Does man flu exist?  If you go out with wet hair can you catch a cold? Does the flu vaccine give you the flu? We bust 5 common cold and flu myths. 

Man flu is real!

It was the day men rejoiced around the world! Scientists reported that men may not be exaggerating their cold and flu symptoms after all...

However, while the study says that some members of the fairer sex may have stronger immune systems, don’t be too quick to say: “I told you so!” This study has nothing to do with colds or the flu, it’s actually about pneumonia. Plus, the study was performed using mice, and not humans, so the results aren’t necessarily applicable to humans. 

So the jury is still out on whether “man flu” really does exist... better luck next time guys!  

If you go outside with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold!

Your grandma meant well when she told you not to go outside with wet hair, fearing that you might catch a cold. But sorry granny this isn’t true! 

You can only catch a cold if you’re infected with one of the more than 200 cold viruses – wet hair or not.  

Chicken soup cures a cold

chicken soup
Chicken soup has traditionally been thought to help relieve cold symptoms. Which is why you probably have found memories of your mum bringing you a steaming bowl of chicken soup when you were feeling under the weather. 

Unfortunately, there is no scientific proof that chicken soup can actually cure a cold or that it helps the symptoms of a cold. 

Saying that, soup is not a bad food choice if you aren’t feeling unwell. It provides fluids (which are important for staying hydrated) and is usually nutritious, warm, comforting and easy to eat. 

The flu shot gives you the flu

Up to 20 percent of Australians will get the flu each year, usually between late autumn and early spring. If you’ve ever had it, you’ll know it’s an infection that you want to avoid. 

Enter the flu vaccine. Having the flu shot can help protect you from getting flu. The trouble is, some people mistakenly believe that the flu vaccine can give you flu – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

To catch the flu, you need to be infected with live flu viruses. But there are no live viruses in the flu vaccine – only inactivated, purified parts of the viruses, which are unable to cause flu. 

I can’t catch the flu, I’ve had the flu shot

You feel terrible, you’ve got a fever, achy joints, runny nose and sore throat but say to yourself “I can’t have the flu; I’ve had the flu shot!” 

There are lots of different types (strains) of flu and your flu vaccination won’t protect you from them all. Each year the flu vaccine is different and only protects you from the most common types of flu that year. That’s why we are encouraged to have the flu shot every year. 

So... unfortunately you may have been unlucky enough to catch a strain of flu virus that wasn’t contained in your flu vaccine, or you were infected before the protection kicked in (it takes up to 2 weeks to build up antibodies), or you may just have a very bad cold.

Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea can prevent colds

Despite being commonly  championed as cold busters, there is not enough information from good quality clinical trials to prove that vitamin C, zinc or echinacea can actually help to prevent or treat colds and flu.

Vitamin C

While vitamin C supplements may not prevent or treat a cold, vitamin C does play an important role in keeping your body healthy, so it’s a good idea to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables rather than taking vitamin C supplements.


Zinc might shorten the length of your cold and improve your symptoms, but only if you are generally healthy, and you take zinc within 24 hours of your symptoms appearing. But exactly how much zinc you need to take, or for how long, or which form is most effective (lozenges or syrup), is not known.


Most echinacea preparations have not been tested in reliable clinical trials, so we don’t know whether it can really help prevent or treat a cold, or how much you would need to take, how long you should take it for, or which form is the most effective (dried, fresh juice or extracts in alcohol) 

It’s important to remember that complementary medicines can cause side effects and interact with other medicines, so you should always talk to a doctor or pharmacist before taking them.
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