Over the centuries, this crystalline sweetener has invaded everyone’s snacks, drinks, guts, and minds. It has caused its fair share of controversy, too.
Although everyone is familiar with sugar as a concept, we’ll start with a brief explainer.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a soluble carbohydrate — a biological molecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Other carbohydrates include starch and cellulose, which is a structural component of plant cell walls.
Simple sugars, or monosaccharides, include glucose and fructose. Granulated sugar is a compound sugar, or disaccharide, known as sucrose, which consists of glucose and fructose. During digestion, the body breaks down disaccharides into monosaccharides.
Still, the chemistry of sugar does not explain its infamy. The substance gained its dastardly reputation because it tastes delicious and, if consumed too freely, is bad for our health.
1. Sugar is addictive
Some experts believe sugar is an addictive substance. For instance, the authors of a controversial narrative review in 2017 write:
“Animal data has shown significant overlap between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects, including bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitization, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, and reward and opioid effects.”
However, this review focuses on animal studies. As the authors of another review explain, “there is a methodological challenge in translating this work because humans rarely consume sugar in isolation.”
Dr. Dominic M. Dwyer from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology explains, “Although certainly present in some people, addiction-like behaviors toward sugar and other foods are present only in a minority of obese individuals. However, we should remember that sugar can drive the overconsumption of foods alongside its addiction-like potential.”
Along similar lines, Prof. David Nutt, Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs and head of the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology and Molecular Imaging at Imperial College London, writes:
“There is not currently scientific evidence that sugar is addictive, although we know that sugar has psychological effects, including producing pleasure, and these are almost certainly mediated via brain reward systems.”
It is worth noting that even though health experts do not class sugar as an addictive substance, that does not make it healthful.
2. Sugar makes kids hyperactive
This is perhaps the most common myth associated with sugar: eating candy causes children to run wild. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that sugar increases hyperactivity in the vast majority of children.
For instance, a 1995 meta-analysis in JAMA combined data from 23 experiments across 16 scientific papers. They concluded:
“This meta-analysis of the reported studies to date found that sugar (mainly sucrose) does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children.”
However, people with children may doubt the truth of this conclusion.
3. Sugar causes diabetes
Another relatively common myth is that sugar directly causes diabetes. However, there is no direct link between the two. The confusion perhaps arises because there is an intrinsic association between blood sugar levels and diabetes.
The story is a little more complicated, though. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and consuming high levels of sugar does increase the likelihood of developing overweight or obesity. However, sugar is not the direct cause of type 2 diabetes.
As for type 1 diabetes, dietary and lifestyle factors do not play a part.
4. Avoid fruit when dieting
Fruits are delicious, partly because they are sweet, thanks to naturally occurring sugars. Because of their sugar content, some people believe that we should avoid eating fruit when maintaining a moderate weight.
This is a myth. Fruits contain a range of healthful compounds, including a variety of vitamins and minerals, and fiber.
Fruit consumption is associated with health benefits, including a reduced mortality rate.
One study concluded that freeze-dried mango “does not negatively impact body weight but provides a positive effect on fasting blood glucose.” Another study found that consuming blueberries enhanced insulin sensitivity.
However, it is worth noting that the two studies mentioned above received grants from the National Mango Board and the United States Highbush Blueberry Council, respectively.
Make of that what you will, but there is no doubt that consuming fruit benefits health. Removing it from our diet to reduce sugar intake would be a mistake.
5. We must eliminate sugar from our diet
Because we know consuming excess sugar is bad for health, it makes sense to reduce our intake. However, it is not necessary to remove it from our diet entirely.
As we noted above, fruits contain sugar, and they benefit health, so cutting it from our diet would be counter-productive.
As with everything in life, moderation is key. With that said, sweetened beverages, such as soda, have associations with several negative health consequences, including kidney damage, cellular aging, hip fractures, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more.
Cutting soda from our diets would certainly be a fantastic idea.
6. Sugar causes cancer
Despite the rumors, most experts do not believe sugar directly causes cancer or fuels its spread.
Cancer cells divide rapidly, meaning they require a great deal of energy, which sugar can provide. This, perhaps, is the root of this myth.
However, all cells need sugar, and cancer cells also require other nutrients to survive, such as amino acids and fats, so it’s not all about sugar. According to Cancer Research UK:
“There’s no evidence that following a sugar-free diet lowers the risk of getting cancer, or boosts the chances of surviving if you are diagnosed.”
As with diabetes, there is a twist — increased sugar intake has links with weight gain, while overweight and obesity are linked with increased cancer risk.
So, although sugar does not directly cause cancer and does not help it thrive, if someone consumes high levels of sugar and develops obesity, their risk increases.
Scientists are continuing to investigate the relationship between cancer and sugar intake. If there are links between the two, they are likely to be convoluted. For instance, the American Cancer Society write:
“There is evidence that a dietary pattern high in added sugars affects levels of insulin and related hormones in ways that may increase the risk of certain cancers.”
One study, which included data from 101,279 participants, concluded that “total sugar intake was associated with higher overall cancer risk,” even after controlling for multiple factors, including weight.
Other researchers have found links between sugar intake and specific cancers, such as endometrial cancer and colon cancer. However, for now, the link is not as solid as the rumor mill claims.
The take home
Sugar is a much-researched topic. Typing “sugar health” into Google Scholar brings up more than 78,000 results from 2020 alone. Navigating this amount of content is unwieldy, and, as with any scientific topic, there are disagreements.
Something to bear in mind is that many studies investigating the health impacts of sugar receive funding from the food industry. One review of research into soft drink consumption, nutrition, and health examined the results of 88 relevant studies.
They found “clear associations” between soft drink intake, body weight, and medical issues.” Tellingly, they also report that “studies funded by the food industry reported significantly smaller effects than did non-industry-funded studies.”
Although there are a number of misunderstandings surrounding sugar, some things are certain: although it might not directly cause diabetes or cancer, eating high levels of sugar is not healthful. Moderation, I am afraid, is the solution.
Flu activity is picking up across the country, with widespread infection in 24 states, according to the CDC. If that news has you worried about your own chances of coming down with the virus, here’s a major step you can take to protect yourself (if you haven’t already): Go get a flu shot.
That’s right. No matter what your reason was for putting off your flu vaccine, there’s still time to get one, even if it is January already. Here’s why.
What does the flu shot do?
Getting the flu shot causes your body to produce antibodies that fight the flu. These proteins in the blood are part of the immune system’s natural response to potentially harmful invaders. The vaccine makes it so that if and when you come in contact with one or more of the viruses that cause the flu, you’re less likely to develop flu symptoms.
How effective is the flu shot?
This year, the strain of the flu that seems to be most prevalent is influenza A in the form of H1N1. During last year’s particularly brutal flu season, H3N2 was the dominant strain, and the CDC estimated the flu shot was effective around 30% of the time. Why does the vaccine’s effectiveness vary from year to year? Before every flu season, health experts tweak the ingredients in that year’s flu vaccine, hoping to make it as effective as possible in protecting against the particular strains of flu-causing viruses that are expected to emerge. If that sounds tricky, that’s because it is.
“We need more research so we can develop an influenza vaccine that works 100% of the time, for 100% of people,” says Pritish K. Tosh, MD, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease physician and researcher. “But we do have a vaccine that is effective in preventing influenza infection and also, in those who get infected, in preventing complications such as hospitalization and even death. While the research is ongoing to create a better vaccine, we need to use the one that we already have.”
So, is it too late to get the flu shot?
Not at all. Flu season peaks from December to February, but it can last until May, according to the CDC. “If somebody hasn’t gotten infected yet, there’s still time to get infected. Therefore, getting the vaccine may help prevent infection and serious complications,” Dr. Tosh says.
In an ideal world, everyone would be vaccinated early in the season. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to become effective, so the CDC recommends getting your flu shot by the end of October. That way, you’re fully protected by the time flu activity picks up, but not before. “The immunity generated does wane, so there is some thought that if you get it too early, perhaps by the end of the season you’re not getting the full effect,” explains Richard Webby, PhD, a member of the infectious diseases department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Even after influenza A circulation slows, other strains, like influenza B, may circulate later in the winter. “It’s not atypical [for] an early influenza A season to be followed by smaller but later influenza B activity,” Webby says. The flu shot also protects against influenza B and, as in years past, pretty effectively, Dr. Tosh adds.
Where to get the flu shot
If you haven’t been vaccinated yet and you’re finally convinced that it’s time, you may contact at one of our clinics (Vistasol Medical Group or Morelia Clinic) as soon as possible to schedule an appointment for your FLU shot.
- Growing evidence is showing that COVID-19 affects kids differently than adults.
- Children experience lower infection rates, accounting for less than 10 percent of cases in the United States.
- Infectious disease specialists say there are several factors that seem to protect children: immunity to seasonal coronaviruses, underdeveloped sinuses, and fewer chronic health conditions.
A new model from researchers in Israel found that kids are half as susceptible to COVID-19 compared to adults.
The report published Thursday, Feb. 11, in PLOS Computational Biology also found that people under 20 are less likely to transmit the virus to other people.
Growing evidence has showed that COVID-19 affects kids and younger people differently.
Children experience lower infection rates, accounting for less than 10 percent of cases in the United States.
When kids do get the disease, the symptoms are typically milder.
They also appear to transmit the virus less and are not primary drivers of community transmission.
Dr. Sharon Nachman, the chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said the lower rates of infection in kids are likely due to many factors.
“These could include a different immune response to virus as compared to adults, the frequent lack of comorbid conditions in many children, and ongoing/frequent exposures to other coronaviruses, and possibly some cross-variant nonspecific immunity,” Nachman said.
What the modeling found
The researchers evaluated transmission data of 637 households in Bnei Brak, Israel.
All individuals underwent PCR testing, and some of the participants were given serological antibody tests.
The researchers then took those findings and adjusted them to reflect the coronavirus’s overall infection and transmission rates.
They found that kids are 43 percent as susceptible to COVID-19 compared to adults.
The findings suggest kids transmit COVID-19 far less than adults. That is, the ability of children to pass the virus is about 63 percent compared to adults.
Children are also less likely to produce positive PCR tests, which looks for genetic material of the virus, even when they have the virus.
This could explain why kids have lower diagnosis rates across the globe.
“After monitoring the [COVID-19] pandemic for over a year, the data are clear,” said Dr. Robert Hamilton, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, “children have been spared the ravages of this illness.”
“Around the world, study after study has shown that children and adolescents account for only 1 to 3 percent of all cases, and that even fewer ultimately required hospitalization,” Hamilton said.
Why are kids less susceptible to COVID-19?
Dr. Amy Baxter, a clinical associate professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, and CEO of PainCareLabs, suspects children are less affected by COVID-19 because of their underdeveloped sinuses.
“SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the nasopharynx, and children have extremely underdeveloped sinuses until about age 12,” Baxter told Healthline.
Baxter pointed out that even when children test positive for COVID-19, they may be less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2.
“Even if the swab seems to show the same viral load, the tank size is so much different that kids’ immune systems aren’t triggered in the same way because they likely don’t absorb nearly as many copies of [the] virus,” Baxter said.
SARS-CoV-2 is usually nasally inhaled before it develops into COVID-19. From there, it travels past the nose and into the nasal cavities where the virus latches onto certain receptors called ACE2 and makes copies of itself to create an infection.
Dr. Kathleen Jordan, an infectious disease specialist and senior vice president of medical affairs at the women’s health provider Tia, suspects the lower attack rate in kids has to do with the fact that children generally don’t have as many health conditions or comorbidities as adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
lists obesity and type 2 diabetes as health conditions that can increase the risk of severe COVID-19.
Jordan thinks it’s a “combination of higher comorbidities in adults that increase their risk while some characteristics unique to children also protect them, such as immune characteristics and decreased propensity to clotting and inflammatory disorders in general.”
But there are many other theories scientists are looking into.
Kids may have higher immunity from other seasonal coronaviruses
that cause the common cold.
“Immunity to these coronavirus cousins of [SARS-CoV-2] viruses seems to confer some protection against [COVID-19] as well,” Hamilton said.
This crossover immunity may keep their immune systems sharp and ready to attack the novel coronavirus.
“It may be that age is the best protection for COVID,” Nachman noted.
There may be differences in microbiota, vitamin D levels, and melatonin that provide some degree of protection.
“These tempered pathways may play a role in why the disease is so much milder in children and less likely to cause symptoms or end organ damage as seen by these pathways in adults,” Jordan said.
What this means for community transmission
More research is needed to better understand kids’ role in transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19, specifically if and how schools and childcare centers fuel transmission.
However, children are not thought to be key drivers of transmission in schools or their communities.
A study from Ireland evaluating 40,000 people found that kids under 15 were half as likely to get and pass the coronavirus.
Still, kids can contract SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19 spreads wherever humans interact, schools and childcare facilities included.
But given the growing evidence, Hamilton said many researchers and physicians feel the risks of keeping kids out of school — like depression and anxiety — are greater than the risk of contracting the new coronavirus in a school setting.
Podding, physical distancing, and mask wearing are effective measures for mitigating transmission in schools, Jordan noted.
“We have seen that school is the safest place for our children,” Nachman said. “In pretty much each school that is open to in-person learning, and with masking and some part of social distancing, there is almost no transmission of virus.”
The bottom line
A new model from researchers in Israel found that kids are half as susceptible to COVID-19 compared to adults.
They’re also less likely to transmit the illness and tend to produce negative PCR tests even when they have the virus.
Infectious disease specialists say there’s multiple factors that seem to protect children, such as immunity to seasonal coronaviruses, underdeveloped sinuses, and less comorbidities.
Given the evidence, many health experts believe the benefits of in-school learning outweigh the risks of contracting the coronavirus in a school setting.
Still, COVID-19 spreads wherever humans are, so mitigation measures such as face masking, physical distancing, and pod learning can help offset disease transmissions in childcare and learning facilities.
There’s no zero-risk activity while the virus is still circulating. But older adults who have been vaccinated should feel more confident in taking part in activities with people who are considered low-risk.
For older adults who have been isolated from family and friends for the better part of a year to stay safe from the coronavirus, the emergency authorization of two COVID-19 vaccines offers some light at the end of the tunnel.
While the vaccine certainly offers more protection, experts caution it’ll still take some time before life returns to normal.
That includes what visits with loved ones will look like.
It’s exciting for people who have been vaccinated to think about resuming those things again, but we’re still not out of the woods yet.
As the United States continues its vaccine rollout, people over the age of 75, along with frontline essential workers, are being prioritized to receive the shot after healthcare personnel and nursing home residents.
In the next phase, people 65 to 74 and adults with underlying health conditions will be offered the vaccine.
This will put many families in a situation where older adults are vaccinated, but their children and grandchildren aren’t.
Healthline spoke with medical experts to see how families should go about visiting loved ones safely in these situations.
The risk is not zero
Dr. Colleen Kelley, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine, said that while the vaccine is moving the country in the right direction, “we are not in a zero risk situation and a few things need to happen before we get down to even a minimal risk situation.”
Those things include getting most of the population vaccinated and getting community transmission of COVID-19 under control.
“We are still at levels well above what we saw during the summer surge in most places,” said Kelley, who’s also a principal investigator for the Moderna and Novavax phase 3 vaccine clinical trials at the Ponce de Leon clinical research site.
Both she and Factora said it’ll be well into 2021 before we get to this point.
Until then, the same protective measures that have been in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including physical distancing, mask wearing, and good hand hygiene, should continue to be practiced when visiting loved ones.
“Today in February, I would do the same things I was doing in December,” Kelley said. “Visit outdoors wherever possible. If you’re indoors, be masked. We still need to keep any gatherings very small and limited as much as possible.”
One reason for this is that whichever vaccine an individual gets, it won’t be 100 percent effective. “Even with 94 or 95 percent efficacy with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, you still have that risk,” Factora said.
At the rate at which the virus is spreading across the country, even that 5 percent chance can still be risky.
“Even though the vaccine protects you, there’s still that risk that you’ll contract it and for older adults, you’re still going to be at higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death compared to the rest of the population,” Factora said.
It’s also not known yet how well the vaccine is going to protect against emergent variants of the virus that are more contagious.
“That’s something scientists are studying, but it’s going to take some time to figure out,” Factora said.
What activities are safe for older adults who have been vaccinated?
There’s no zero-risk activity while the virus is still circulating. But older adults who have been vaccinated should feel more confident in taking part in activities with people who are considered low-risk.
“Particularly outdoor activities and particularly gatherings that are small, if you’re seeing family members who are not vaccinated but are still practicing social distancing and mask wearing,” Factora said, “you should feel safer because you now have an added protection with the vaccine.”
However, there’s an added complication for many families: The vaccine hasn’t been authorized for use in children.
The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for people 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine has been authorized for people 18 and older.
“There’s no time soon where we expect our children to be vaccinated,” Kelley said.
This may be of particular concern when it comes to older children and teenagers who are more likely to have larger social circles.
“In these instances, I think it’s a good idea for older adults to ask questions before a visit about where their grandkids have been over the last 10 days,” Factora said.
“If they’ve been keeping to themselves during that time and haven’t had symptoms, then you’re at lower risk of getting something because you’re outside the window where risk of transmission is highest,” he said.
Factora added: “If you can prepare for planned events by asking these questions and again keep the visits outdoors and limited, I think that’s a safe way for grandparents to see their grandkids.”
Experts said that once everyone in your social bubble has been vaccinated, the risk of COVID-19 transmission goes down.
While this may take a while for families with multiple generations, older adults should feel more comfortable about spending time with peers of the same age who have also been vaccinated.
“If you get vaccinated and the people within your bubble get vaccinated, you should have greater confidence that you’ll be less likely to contract COVID-19,” Factora said.
“This is great for many older adults in independent or assisted living facilities,” he said. “Engaging in social activities like card games and common dinners with friends and neighbors who have also been vaccinated, this should give you a better sense of safety.”
Until more of the population is vaccinated and community transmission goes down, older adults should still stay away from closed indoor spaces that are poorly ventilated.
“Bars, restaurants, crowded rooms, places where there’s lots of people — these are circumstances that are still considered highest risk that should be avoided,” Factora said.
Of all the modern medical interventions we have at our disposal, few have been victim to as much falsehood as vaccines. As the world battles a pandemic, stripping the truth from the lies is more urgent than ever.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 2010 and 2015, vaccines prevented an estimated 10 million deaths.
Scientists have worked tirelessly to create safe and effective vaccines to protect us against SARS-CoV-2. Now, as many governments roll out COVID-19 vaccines, scientists and medical experts are facing a new challenge: misinformation and associated vaccine hesitancy.
Some anti-vaxxers — individuals who believe vaccines cause a range of medical ills — dedicate their entire lives to railing against vaccines. In reality, vaccines have saved lives of millions of people.
Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new and, in many ways, perfectly reasonable. For instance, misinformation about the vaccines’ safety and potential effects on the body is rife on the internet. Also, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed unusually swiftly and use relatively new technology.
Today, a significant percentage of the United States population, and the world at large, are nervous to take a shot that could save their lives.
In this article, we tackle some of the most common myths associated with the COVID-19 vaccines. Although it will not convince dyed-in-the-wool anti-vaxxers, we hope that this information will prove useful for those who are hesitant.
1. The vaccines are not safe, because they were developed so fast
It is true that scientists developed the COVID-19 vaccines faster than any other vaccine to date — under 1 year. The previous record breaker was the mumps vaccine, which was developed in 4 years.
There are a number of reasons the COVID-19 vaccines were developed more quickly, none of which reduces its safety profile.
For instance, scientists were not starting from scratch. Although SARS-CoV-2 was new to science, researchers have been studying coronaviruses for decades.
Also, because COVID-19 has touched every continent on earth, the process of vaccine development involved an unprecedented worldwide collaboration. And, while many scientific endeavors face funding difficulties, COVID-19 researchers received funding from a wide range of sponsors.
Another factor that slows vaccine development is recruiting volunteers. In the case of COVID-19, there was no shortage of people who wanted to help.
Also, under normal circumstances, clinical trials are run sequentially. But in this instance, scientists could run some trials simultaneously, which saved a great deal of time.
These factors and more meant that the vaccine could be developed swiftly without compromising safety.
In short: identifying the virus was quicker; we already had experience with similar pathogens; technology has moved on since the 1980s; every government on earth had a vested interest; and there were few financial restraints.
2. The vaccine will alter my DNA
Some COVID-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, are based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. These vaccines work differently to traditional types of vaccine.
Classical vaccines introduce an inactivated pathogen or part of a pathogen to the body to “teach” it how to produce an immune response.
By contrast, an mRNA vaccine delivers the instructions for making a pathogen’s protein to our cells. Once the protein is created, the immune system responds to it, priming it to respond to future attacks by the same pathogen.
However, the mRNA does not hang around in the body, and it is not integrated into our DNA. Once it has provided the instructions, the cell breaks it down.
In fact, the mRNA will not even reach the cell’s nucleus, which is where our DNA is housed.
3. COVID-19 vaccines can give you COVID-19
The COVID-19 vaccines cannot give an individual COVID-19. Regardless of the type of vaccine, none contains the live virus. Any side effects, such as headache or chills, are due to the immune response and not an infection.
4. The vaccine contains a microchip
A YouGov poll conducted in the U.S. last year asked 1,640 people a range of questions about COVID-19. An incredible 28% of respondents believe that Bill Gates plans to use the COVID-19 vaccinations as a vehicle to implant microchips into the population.
According to some, this microchip will allow shadowy elites to track their every move. In reality, our mobile phones already complete that task effortlessly.
There is no evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines contains a microchip.
Although the specifics vary from conspiracy theory to conspiracy theory, some believe that the vaccine contains radio-frequency identification tags. These consist of a radio transponder, radio receiver, and transmitter. It is not possible to shrink these components to a size small enough to fit through the end of a needle.
5. COVID-19 vaccines can make you infertile
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines impact fertility. Similarly, there is no evidence that they will endanger future pregnancies.
This rumor began because of a link between the spike protein that is coded by the mRNA-based vaccines and a protein called syncytin-1. Syncytin-1 is vital for the placenta to remain attached to the uterus during pregnancy.
However, although the spike protein does share a few amino acids in common with syncytin-1, they are not even nearly similar enough to confuse the immune system.
The rumor appears to have begun courtesy of Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg. In December of last year, he petitioned the European Medicines Agency to halt COVID-19 vaccine trials in the European Union. Among his concerns was the syncytin-1 “issue” mentioned above.
Dr. Wodarg has a history of skepticism toward vaccines and has downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Wodarg and the former vice president and chief scientist of Pfizer Inc. pharmaceuticals joined voices to make claims about the vaccine producing infertility, thus stoking widespread fears.
However, there is no evidence that any COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility.
6. The COVID-19 vaccine contains fetal tissue
Over the years, anti-vaxxers have spread rumors that vaccines contain fetal tissue. Neither the COVID-19 vaccines nor any other vaccine contains any tissue from fetuses.
As Dr. Michael Head, a senior research fellow at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, told the BBC, “There are no fetal cells used in any vaccine production process.”
7. People who have had COVID-19 do not need the vaccine
Even people who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the past should be vaccinated. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) write:
“Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, [a] vaccine should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had [a SARS-CoV-2] infection.”
There is also a chance that the initial test produced a false positive — in other words, the test was positive, but there was no viral infection. For this reason, it is better to err on the side of caution.
8. After receiving the vaccine, you cannot transmit the virus
COVID-19 vaccines are designed to prevent people from becoming ill following a SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, a person who has been vaccinated may still be able to carry the virus, which means that they might also be able to transmit it.
Because scientists do not yet know whether the vaccines will prevent infection, once a person has been vaccinated, they should continue to wear a mask in public, wash their hands, and practice physical distancing as recommended by regional authorities.
9. Once I have been vaccinated, I can resume a normal life
Unfortunately, for the reasons mentioned above, this is not true.
10. The vaccine will protect against COVID-19 for life
Because scientists have only been studying the virus for around 1 year, we do not know how long immunity will last. According to the WHO:
“It’s too early to know if COVID-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection. […] However, it’s encouraging that available data suggest that most people who recover from COVID-19 develop an immune response that provides at least some period of protection against reinfection — although we’re still learning how strong this protection is and how long it lasts.”
It may be that we will need to have an annual COVID-19 shot, in the same way that we do with the flu shot.
11. People with preexisting conditions cannot take the vaccine
This is untrue. People with most preexisting conditions — including heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease — can take a COVID-19 vaccine. However, if anyone is concerned, it is always advisable to speak with a doctor.
In fact, because preexisting conditions, such as obesity and heart disease, can increase the risk of developing more severe COVID-19 symptoms, being vaccinated is even more important for people with preexisting health issues.
There is an exception: individuals who are allergic to any of the components of the vaccine should not have the shot. Anyone who has had an allergic reaction to any vaccine in the past should speak with their doctor.
However, the CDC recommend “that people with a history of severe allergic reactions not related to vaccines or injectable medications — such as food, pet, venom, environmental, or latex allergies — get vaccinated. People with a history of allergies to oral medications or a family history of severe allergic reactions may also get vaccinated.”
12. People with compromised immune systems cannot have the vaccine
Because the vaccine does not contain a live pathogen, it will not cause an infection. Therefore, individuals who have a compromised immune system can still take the vaccine. However, they may not build up immune protection to the same degree as someone with a fully functioning immune system.
The CDC also explain that few people who have a compromised immune system were involved in the vaccine trials:
“Immunocompromised individuals may receive [a] COVID-19 vaccination if they have no contraindications to vaccination. However, they should be counseled about the unknown vaccine safety profile and effectiveness in immunocompromised populations.”
13. Older adults cannot have the vaccine
This is a myth. Currently, in most countries where officials are rolling out the vaccine, older adults are being prioritized, as they are most at risk of severe illness.
Also, some of the clinical trials had specific subgroups that included older adults to check the vaccine’s safety in this population.
In Norway, 23 frail older adults died shortly after they received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This, perhaps, helps explain why this myth is gaining traction.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA) are currently investigating the situation. Steinar Madsen, a medical director at NOMA, believes that common adverse reactions, such as fever, nausea, and diarrhea, “may aggravate underlying disease in the elderly.”
Madsen also explained that “these are very rare occurrences, and they occurred in very frail patients with very serious disease.” He went on to add,
“We are now asking for doctors to continue with the vaccination but to carry out extra evaluation of very sick people whose underlying condition might be aggravated by it.”
It is hard to believe that not much more than 1 year ago, COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 were entirely unknown. Now, we have a number of viable, effective, and safe vaccines.
In this internet-fueled era, rumors grow and spread like wildfire. The addition of a significant dose of fear and anxiety provides the perfect petri dish in which to grow stubborn, dangerous myths.
The situation and the science are moving quickly, and the best advice is to ensure that you always take information from reliable sources and do not pay attention to powerful but misleading social media posts.
COVID-19 and the flu can cause similar symptoms. However, there are several differences between them.
The novel strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19).
Both COVID-19 and the flu are respiratory illnesses that spread from person to person. This article will discuss the differences between COVID-19 and the flu.
The symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 have some differences.
People who have the flu will typically experience symptoms within 1–4 days. The symptoms for COVID-19 can develop between 1–14 days. However, according to 2020 research, the median incubation period for COVID-19 is 5.1 days.
As a point of comparison, the incubation period for a cold is 1–3 days.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in both children and adults. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children typically present with fever and mild, cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose and a cough.
The following table outlines the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, and a cold.
Severity and mortality
The symptoms of COVID-19 and flu can range from mild to severe. Both can also cause pneumonia.
It is important to note that the World Health Organization (WHO) have classified mild symptoms of COVID-19 to mean that a person will not require hospitalization. The WHO classify mild cases to consist of symptoms including:
- loss of appetite
- sore throat
The CDC also lists the following as potential symptoms:
- muscle pain
- new loss of taste or smell
According to the WHO, around 15% of COVID-19 cases are severe, and 5% are critical. Those in a critical state require a ventilator to breathe. The chance of severe and critical infection is higher with COVID-19 than the flu.
COVID-19 is also more deadly. According to the WHO, the mortality rate for COVID-19 appears to be higher than that of the flu.
Compared with the flu, research on COVID-19 is still in its early stages. These estimates may change over time.
Both SARS-CoV-2 and the flu virus can spread through person to person contact.
Tiny droplets containing the viruses can pass from someone with the infection to someone else, typically through the nose and mouth through coughing and sneezing.
The virus can also live on surfaces. The WHO is not sure exactly how long the virus can survive, but it could be days.
According to the CDC, people can transmit the flu virus to people who are 6 feet (ft) away. According to the WHO, people should stay at least 6 ft away from anyone coughing or sneezing to help prevent the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
According to the WHO, the speed of transmission differs between the two viruses. The symptoms of flu appear sooner, and it can spread faster than the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The organization also indicate that people with flu can pass the virus on before they show any symptoms. A person can also pass on the SARS-CoV-2 infection even if they have no symptoms.
There are also differences in transmission between children and adults.
According to the WHO, the transmission of the flu from children to adults is common. However, based on early data it appears that it is more common for adults to pass the SARS-CoV-2 infection onto children. Children are less likely to develop symptoms.
The CDC recommend that people wear cloth face masks in public places where it is difficult to maintain physical distancing. This will help slow the spread of the virus from people who do not know that they have contracted it, including those who are asymptomatic. People should wear cloth face masks while continuing to practice physical distancing.
As flu has been around much longer than COVID-19, there are more treatment options.
Most people with the flu do not require medical treatment. But a doctor might prescribe antiviral drugs in some cases, which can reduce the symptoms by 1–2 days.
These antiviral drugs help the body fight the virus. They treat symptoms and reduce how long the illness lasts.
There are currently no antiviral drugs approved to treat COVID-19, although scientists are currently researching drugs in trials. When scientists have had more time to study the disease, the availability of antivirals to treat COVID-19 will likely increase.
Although there is currently no approved treatment or vaccination for COVID-19, there are ways to help treat the symptoms and any complications that can occur.
For mild cases, a person should remain home and undertake social distancing. Healthcare professionals may prescribe antipyretics to reduce the fever.
For more severe cases, a person may require supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation on a breathing machine to treat the respiratory problems that may occur.
The most effective way of preventing the flu is through vaccination.
Many strains of influenza can cause infection. The most common strains vary depending on the season.
Doctors will try to predict what strains will be most common each season to select the right vaccine components.
The best way to prevent spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus includes:
- washing hands regularly
- avoiding touching the face
- keeping at least 6 ft away from anyone sneezing and coughing
- covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing
- staying at home if feeling unwell
- working from home if possible
- avoiding crowds and gatherings of any size
Both COVID-19 and the flu are viral infections.
Viruses are tiny microbes that survive by invading other living cells. These cells become host cells to the virus, which multiplies inside of them. They can then spread to new cells around the body.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. The SARS-CoV-2 causes the infection that leads to COVID-19.
There are two types of viruses that cause the flu — influenza A and B. There are also several subtypes of influenza A. Any of these viruses can cause the flu.
COVID-19 and flu share some similar symptoms. The symptoms of flu tend to occur faster and can have greater variation. But COVID-19 is more likely to lead to severe illness or death.
Both viruses spread via person to person contact. Flu spreads faster and is more likely to affect children.
As the flu has been around longer, there are several effective antiviral treatments and vaccines available. Researchers and scientists are developing these for COVID-19, but treatments and vaccines are not likely to be available soon.
The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to practice social distancing, which means avoiding any non-essential social contact or travel. It is essential to maintain good personal and domestic hygiene by washing the hands regularly and keeping surfaces and utensils clean.
Viral infections cause both COVID-19 and the flu. But COVID-19 is due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and flu is from influenza A and B viruses.