We’ve all heard that cold weather causes the cold and flu virus, in fact my mother was just arguing with me about it this week for the 10th time. And if you’re as addicted to Pinterest as I am, you may have seen the popular home remedy pin going around which states that a raw onion can absorb the flu virus. If you’re as addicted to home remedies and dispelling cold and flu myths as I am, you’ve come to the right place! Dr. Ted Myatt was kind enough to join me this week to discuss why we get sick in the winter months, whether or not you can spread the flu without symptoms, if you should invest in an ultraviolet light, and my personal favorite- if a raw onion can remove the flu virus in the air!
Candace Rose: According to reports this has been one of the worst cold and flu seasons in years. What can we do to avoid getting sick this winter?
Dr. Ted Myatt: “That’s a good question and one of the areas that I investigate pretty regularly. The area that I like to research is flu survival on surfaces in the air, and things that we can do to prevent that survival or reduce that survival. And one of the things that has been investigated over many years is the relationship between temperature and flu survival, and relative humidity and flu survival. People were really looking at that fact decades and decades ago to try to explain why we get the flu season in the winter when it’s cold.
And what people have discovered is it’s actually mostly related to relative humidity. So the virus actually survives much better at low relative humidities than at higher relative humidities. A simple solution that we were investigating was by adding a humidifier to raise the humidity level in your home, you’re actually doing a great job of reducing the survival of of influenza, not only on surfaces but in the air as well.
Candace Rose: We’ve all heard that cold weather causes the flu, in fact my mother just told me that other day.
Dr. Ted Myatt: “That’s a myth that’s actually much more related to the relative humidity than the cold cold weather.”
Candace Rose: Is it possible to spread the flu even if you don’t have symptoms?
Dr. Ted Myatt: “That’s true. You can spread influenza if you don’t have symptoms. About 20-30% of the people that get the flu never experience any symptoms at all, but that doesn’t prevent them from shedding the virus in their workplace and at home. You can also experience symptoms, but before you experience symptoms for about a day or so, you think you’re fine and you think you’re healthy but you’re shedding the virus then, right before the symptoms really kick in. You can certainly spread the flu virus without seeing any symptoms.”
Candace Rose: Will ultraviolet light kill the flu?
Dr. Ted Myatt: “That’s a great question. We’ve got an example here of a device (please see video for details), so UV lights (if you buy the right type of UVC light which is called a germicidal wavelength of the light. It actually can disinfect surfaces. So if you kind of spread this over a surface and you’re doing it for the right length of time and at the right height over the surface, it will disinfect surfaces. It’s kind of neat that simply using a light can disinfect surfaces like that.”
Candace Rose: I recently read that a raw onion can remove the flu in the air. Is this true?
Dr. Ted Myatt: “That is a myth. We have an onion here (please see video for details), the myth goes back literally to the middle ages that if you use a sliced onion in your home, leave it in bowls that it will purify the air of your home and prevent you from getting sick. As you suspected, this is a myth. Like I said, this has been going back for centuries. If you want to purify the air in your home, a much better option other than picking up something in the produce aisle, is to use something like a portable air purifier that’s got a HEPA or HEPA-like filter. That removes not only the influenza virus, but other contaminants and pollutants from your indoor air as well.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Dr. Ted Myatt: “Sure, kind of the first line of defense that the CDC recommends this and your primary care physician would recommend this as well, is to get a flu vaccination. It’s not too late to get a flu vaccination (if you haven’t already). That’s sort of the first line of defense.
Always wash your hands, especially if you’re out and about touching surfaces that many other people are touching, for instance when you’re at the grocery store or at the mall- you’re touching elevator buttons and railings and that sort of thing. Washing your hands frequently is a great choice.
And then doing something like a humidifier to reduce the survival of influenza on surfaces is always a great option.”