From old wives’ tales to vaccine misinformation, there’s no doubt the internet is littered with health information that simply isn’t true – causing actual harm if it’s mistaken as fact and not the fiction that it is.
Here, ZoomDoc’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kenny Livingstone, sets the record straight on things you may have read online that have no truth to them whatsoever, as convincing as they may seem.
- ‘Kids’ flu vaccines have caused the Strep A outbreak’ – FICTION
This is absolutely untrue.
A rumour that the nasal flu vaccine was linked to Strep A infections in kids began circulating on social media shortly after the UKHSA (UK health and security agency) reported a rise in children dying from Strep A-related complications towards the end of 2022.
Although a tragedy, there is absolutely no evidence to link the two. Instead the increase in deaths has been put down to ‘high amounts of circulating bacteria and social mixing’, says the UKHSA.
The nasal flu vaccine has been given to kids in the UK since 2013 and is perfectly safe with relatively few side effects – and these wouldn’t include Strep A infections.
Parents should continue to protect their kids against the flu via the nasal spray when offered (usually between October-December).
Read more about kids’ flu vaccines here.
- ‘You can catch a cold from the cold’ – FICTION
We’ve all heard the expression, ‘you’ll catch a cold’ often related to someone having wet hair or not dressing warmly enough but the only way you can catch a cold is from cold germs.
It’s impossible to catch a cold from the cold. Colds are viruses that are spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours. The best way to avoid catching a cold is by:
- Washing your hands well with warm water and soap
- Not sharing towels, food or cups of drink with someone who has a cold
- Not touching your eyes or nose as this is how colds get into your system
- Staying fit and healthy
- ‘Cracking knuckles will give you arthritis’ – FICTION
There’s no evidence to suggest that cracking knuckles causes arthritis or any other conditions for that matter. Cracking knuckles is nothing more than a bad habit that can be hard to crack, excuse the pun! Some people do it because they like the feel of it, or it can be nerves or stress-related.
If you notice your joints are swollen, painful or dislocate as a result of cracking, talk to your doctor to find out what’s going on.
- ‘MMR jabs cause autism in kids’ – FICTION
Perhaps one of the most damaging health rumours still in circulation, this dates back to 1998 when a British doctor thought he’d found a link between the two. However, in 2010, after an investigation into his ‘findings’ the doctor was struck off, no longer allowed to practise medicine and any so-called ‘evidence’ was discredited.
Unfortunately mud sticks and to this day, some parents still have concerns over the MMR jab – a safe and effective vaccine to help prevent measles, mumps and rubella.
As a father of three and a GP I’d urge parents to make sure their children have both doses of the MMR jab at the age of one and again a few months after they’ve turned three, as well as all other routine immunisations offered.
- ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – FICTION
If only an apple a day kept the doctor away but although they’re packed with vitamins and fibre, it’ll take more than a daily apple to stop you picking up bugs and viruses.
Of course, eating healthily will help keep your immune system strong, meaning you could fight off a virus quicker than someone with an unhealthy diet, but apples alone won’t be enough to defend you. Make sure you eat and drink sensibly and healthily where possible and are fully immunised for the best defence against viruses and diseases.
- ‘The flu jab gives you flu’ – FICTION
It’s simply not possible to get the flu from having the flu vaccine as it contains no live virus. Although side effects such as a runny nose or other cold-like symptoms are common, these are different to flu symptoms. Any side effects that do occur will be mild, last a day or two at the most and are nothing like having the actual flu, which can cause severe illness, complications and even require hospital treatment.
Find out more about the flu and COVID vaccines here.
- ‘Stop taking antibiotics once you feel better’ – FICTION
The advice for anyone prescribed antibiotics is to complete the course, even if you feel better. Your doctor will have prescribed you with the shortest course possible to treat your infection. Not finishing this could mean symptoms return and you end up needing a further course of antibiotics, instead of just one.
- ‘You can’t catch COVID twice’ – FICTION
Sadly many people reading this will have had COVID twice, or even more than that, not helped by the amount of different strains of the virus as it evolves and mutates. The good news is that being vaccinated offers better protection than natural immunity. Studies show that unvaccinated people who’ve had it already are over twice as likely to catch it again as unvaccinated people. Make sure you take up a winter booster vaccine when you’re offered one or book in for a vaccine if you’ve still never had one.
Read more about the latest COVID vaccine being offered here.
- ‘Hand sanitiser is just as good as washing hands’ – FICTION
While the pandemic may have got us into the habit of carrying hand sanitisers or antibacterial gels around with us, nothing beats washing with soap and warm water for a good 20 seconds (as long as singing Happy Birthday twice) to get rid of germs on our hands.
That’s because hand sanitiser alone won’t kill norovirus germs so health experts will always recommend thoroughly washing with water and soap to avoid spreading germs and nasty viruses.
- ‘You have to see your GP to get a Doctor’s Note’
Whether you need a simple sick note or referral to see a specialist, there’s no need to take up your GP’s time. Although NHS practices do provide this service, you’ll still have to pay so why not go straight to ZoomDoc.com where you can order the medical letter you require, no appointment necessary. It’ll cost the same as if you’d gone to your GP but with a lot less time and energy!