The Surprising Truth About Viruses & Bacteria

african american woman bar soap( — The number one rule in warfare is to know your opponent. When it comes to arming yourself for the cold and flu season, the best weapons of protection include knowledge about bacteria and viruses, and being able to separate truths from myths.

Myth: Superbugs are resistant to hand washing and hand sanitizers.

The Truth: Washing your hands with any soap, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, will protect you from superbugs just as much as it protects you from other bacteria and viruses. Superbugs are resistant to some antibiotics, which makes infections difficult to treat, but they are still susceptible to cleaning and good hygiene, including hand washing.

Myth: Pets such as cats and dogs are immune to infectious diseases.

The Truth: Dogs, cats and other household pets can in fact get sick from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. They can also carry and pass on bacteria.  To avoid spreading bacteria through your pets, always wash your hands after playing with or touching pets or anything they commonly touch, including toys, food and sleeping areas.

Myth: I have a healthy immune system, so I don’t need immunization. Why risk getting a dangerous vaccine when I don’t need it?

The Truth: Vaccines work with your immune system to help you fight infection. No studies have proven that vaccines cause any diseases or conditions. Vaccines are safe and effective, and are still our best protection against many infections.

Myth: Once I feel better, I should stop taking these antibiotics.

The Truth: Even though you physically feel better, your antibiotics are still taking the time to completely fight off bacterial infections. You need to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed to be sure the infection is gone.

Myth: Unpasteurized milk is healthier for me.

The Truth: Unpasteurized milk is milk that has not been through a heating process to remove bacteria. Consuming milk in its raw form may put you and your family at risk of infections.

Myth: Antibiotics will help me get rid of this cold or flu.

The Truth: Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections. Viruses cause most earaches, sore throats, coughs and virtually all colds and flus. Antibiotics will not work on viruses and will not help you recover from these infections. The best way to fight off colds and flus is with prevention.

Myth: Over-the-counter cough and cold medicine will cure infection.

TheTruth: Over-the-coutner medications, by themselves or in combination with decongestants, antihistamines, and cough suppressants, don’t cure illness. They just help make the symptoms more bearable until your body’s immune system is able to fight off the virus. They may help you feel a bit better, but you could still be infectious to others.

Myth: It’s best to use antibacterial dish soaps and cleansers to be certain that my dishes and kitchen is safe and as bacteria-free as possible.

The Truth: Regular dish soap, dishwashing detergents and other cleaning products work just as well for washing dishes and clothes, cleaning your house, or washing your hands. In fact, antibacterial compounds in soaps and detergents can cause the development of antibiotic-resistant bugs in the environment.

Myth: Organic foods are much safer foods if you don’t want to buy foods infected with bacteria.

The Truth: Organic doesn’t necessarily mean free from bugs, infection and bacteria.  The organic label means that foods are produced without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, bioengineering and irradiation.  Actually, organic fruits and vegetables may have more risk of causing infection if they are not cleaned or cooked properly before being eaten.

Myth: A fever isn’t a big deal if it’s not over 103 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Truth: Even a low-grade fever is often a sign that your body is fighting some type of infection. If the fever is accompanied by a cough, vomiting and diarrhea or a rash, that’s a good sign that the infection is contagious and you should avoid contact with others. Even with a low-grade fever you may want to stay home and call your doctor to ask about your symptoms.