Can Warm Weather Cause the Flu?

"I suspect the airplane and car are the real means of disease transmission."

Misleading, Potentially Dangerous Sickness Myths

Weather is not the only mythical source of the cold and flu. Garry says that many have pointed to sunspots as a culprit, since the last six sunspot peaks have coincided with flu pandemics. He says, however, that there is no relation between the two events.

But while the sunspot myth may be fairly benign, there are other potentially harmful cold and flu misconceptions.

One of these is that you can get influenza from a flu shot.

"There is no truth to it," Schaffner says. "This myth actually prevents many people from getting the influenza vaccine, thus exposing them to the serious infection caused by that virus."

Schaffner adds that the vaccine myth may have arisen from the vaccine used in the 1960s, which was a somewhat cruder version of the vaccine used today.

"Back then, a sore arm and some fever for a day or so was pretty common," he says. "This could have been misinterpreted as flu from the vaccine."

The idea that certain herbal preparations can ward off or lessen the effects of colds and flu may also be counterproductive.

"Many patients who take echinacea for a cold cure find that their nasal and sinus symptoms worsen if they have seasonal allergies to ragweed and pollens due to a cross reaction," says Dr. Clifford Bassett, from the Long Island College Hospital in New York.

"They actually get an allergy attack instead of cold relief. This is known as 'cross reactivity.'"

Even though most myths about colds and flu are unscientific, not all of them are completely baseless.

"Starve a cold, feed a fever is actually a misquoting of the Hippocratic maxim 'if you starve a cold you will have to feed the fever,'" Garry says. "The truth is that you should pay careful attention to nutrition in both cases."

This, he says, could fuel another myth -- the Lenten fare of chicken soup as a cold and flu cure-all.

"Children and elderly people who don't eat during illness are going to do worse," he says. "It makes sense."

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