How Do You Catch a Cold? Cold and Flu Myths Busted!


Myths and misinformation abound when it comes to health.

In this article, we answer your top cold and flu myths, including “How do you catch a cold?”


It’s one of the moments that parents dread: “Mommy, Daddy…I don’t feel good.” Your kid is sick, complete with the sore throat, fever, cough, and other symptoms that often come along with it.

Whether you’re a new parent or a veteran, nobody likes when their kid is sick. Colds and flu are a (miserable) part of life, but they aren’t the only things that “go viral.” Rumors and old wives’ tales still circulate around these illnesses. Your best friend said turmeric does the trick. Grandma swears by her mama’s chicken soup recipe.

Luckily, we have the lowdown on what is true and what isn’t. Whether it’s “how to catch a cold?” or “should I get an antibiotic?” allow us to bust the top 10 cold and flu myths.


Myth #1: Being cold/wet will make you sick.

We’ve all been told not to go outside if our hair is wet or if we’re not bundled up enough, but is there any truth in that?

No! Colds are caused by viruses and only spread via contact with the germs. You don’t come into contact with a cold virus simply by being cold or wet. The same thing goes for swim lessons. While swim lessons can cause an ear infection if you don’t dry your ears, it won’t cause a virus like a cold or flu.

toddler outside in coat and hat

The reason that people tend to get more sick in the winter is they spend more time indoors when it’s cold outside. Cold germs can also linger in the air longer when humidity is low (as it typically is in the winter).

It might be called a “cold,” but that doesn’t mean temperature has anything to do with it!


Myth #2: Antibiotics are good for colds/flus.

We wish it were that simple!

Antibiotics are for bacterial—not viral—infections. Viruses have to run their course and medications can only temporarily relieve symptoms, not cure diseases.

Your doctor may treat you with antibiotics if your cold turns into some type of infection. Common infections stemming from colds are sinus, ear, and lung infections. Because these types of infections often coincide with one another, people think that viruses can be treated with antibiotics and call it a day. If your doctor offers you antibiotics as a first course of treatment for a cold/flu, please get a second opinion.


closeup shot of hands checking thermometer

Myth #3: Colds don’t cause fevers, only the flu does.

Many people believe that if they have a fever, it must be the flu (or, if they don’t have a fever, it’s just a cold). The truth is, the only way to know for certain that you have the flu is a positive flu test.

There are actually four different types of flu viruses and more than 200 different viruses that cause the common cold, which explains why symptoms can be so different from person to person.

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of colds with high fevers and many cases of the flu with none. One major difference is that (typically) flu symptoms start more suddenly than common cold symptoms and are generally more severe.

They do have one thing in common though: both illnesses can take a toll on your health. Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest either way.


Myth #4: Dairy is bad for a cold/flu.

Sorry, Grandma! This one isn’t true either.

There’s an old wives’ tale that says dairy causes more phlegm in the nose and throat, which can lead to infections. But in fact, dairy is often recommended because it is a rich source of protein and vitamins.

So drink up. It won’t affect the illness.


Myth #5: If you don’t have a fever, you’re not contagious.

As a doctor’s office and parents ourselves, this is the one we hate the most.

Fever or not, if you’re sick, you’re contagious. (Think of all those asymptomatic cases of COVID-19!)

Furthermore, bringing the fever down with medication does not mean your child is not contagious! We understand that you have to work, but don’t mask your children’s fevers with medication to avoid taking a sick day. This only spreads the virus throughout your community.


Mother taking care of sick boy in bed

Myth #6: The flu is no big deal.

Unfortunately, the flu can end up being a very big deal, especially among the very old and the very young.

When the H1N1 virus (also known as swine flu) first emerged, it was known as Spanish Influenza and caused more than 50 million deaths worldwide.

You never know how severely you will be impacted by the flu (or who you will spread it to), so it’s important to get your flu shot every year.


Myth #7: The flu shot will give me the flu.

The flu vaccine uses only dead or inactivated forms of the virus, making it impossible for it to make you sick.

Because a vaccine’s job is to cause an immune reaction, you can have some mild side effects that feel like the flu. Those effects should subside within a day or two.

If you test positive for the flu after getting your flu vaccine, a more likely possibility is that you caught the flu before your vaccine had time to build a robust response. Unfortunately, this can happen.

No vaccine is foolproof, but they are our best defense. It’s best to get your vaccine early in the season so your immune system is in tip top shape.


Myth #8: Medication will cure my cold.

Even when they make you feel better, no medication can “cure” a cold. OTC (over the counter) medications can help alleviate a cough, runny nose, scratchy throat, and other uncomfortable symptoms so that you can get the rest that your body needs. But this isn’t the same as a cure. Viruses just have to run their course.

Remember to treat fevers by alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen so that your kids aren’t getting the same type of medication over and over. Studies have shown that alternating these medicines can be beneficial in certain circumstances. Sometimes, it even allows a parent to give the doses a little closer together (at the direction of your pediatrician) which can help a child feel more comfortable.

Here’s some advice on how to get children to take medicine.


dads taking baby's temperature

Myth #9: If my child has a fever, I have to give them medicine.

Not necessarily! In fact, a fever is the body’s natural defense against viruses and can help eliminate them faster.

Studies show that as long as your child is older than 6 months of age and comfortable, you can let a low grade fever do its job. If your child is showing signs of discomfort, such as lethargy or restlessness, they may benefit from a fever reducer.

If you’re dealing with a newborn fever, contact your pediatrician.


Myth #10: Catching these things is inevitable.

While science has not yet been able to eliminate colds and flus completely, there are ways to avoid getting sick.

Washing your hands frequently, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and staying away from crowded indoor spaces can reduce the frequency of transmission. You should also avoid close contact with infected people, especially if you have young children at home. Similarly, proper nutrition, rest, and avoiding stress help strengthen your immune system so you are better able to fight the viruses you do come into contact with.

Taking these precautions can keep your family as healthy as possible throughout cold and flu season.



Nobody likes to get sick, but it’s important to know the facts versus the myths when it comes to illness.

As awful as upper respiratory viruses are, they’re short-lived and usually resolve on their own. It’s always recommended to give your pediatrician a heads up when your child is sick so that a close eye can be kept on them. As we mentioned above, a normal cold can turn into a more serious bacterial infection that you’ll want to watch out for.

If you have any questions about cold and flu season, old myths that need to be debunked, or if you need an appointment, give us a call.

Kid Care Pediatrics

Kid Care Pediatrics has been in existence since October 2001. It was established by Omar A. Gomez, M.D. The practice philosophy at Kid Care Pediatrics is to provide quality pediatric medical care for children in a professional yet caring manner.

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