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Myths about the Flu (Trangkaso), Debunked

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Sahlee Barrer · Updated Jul 12, 2020

Myths about the Flu (Trangkaso), Debunked

Numerous myths abound on flu management and care. Known in the Philippines as “trangkaso,” flu remedies sometimes follow common and long-held beliefs that are not necessarily grounded on facts. It is important to separate trangkaso facts from myths to ensure the best treatment and care.

All You Need to Know About Influenza (Flu)

Read on to find out some of the key differences between trangkaso facts and myths.

Differentiating Trangkaso Facts from Myths

Trangkaso Myth: The flu is just a bad cold.

Trangkso (flu) may cause bad cold symptoms, but it is entirely different from the common cold. Both have similar symptoms and are treated mostly the same, which is why they can easily be confused. But while colds are mild and last longer, the flu is more dangerous.

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever of 102°F or higher
  • Chills and sweats
  • Muscle aches and headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Stuffy nose
  • Loss of appetite

If symptoms get worse and last longer than seven to 10 days, it is time to see a doctor.

Trangkaso Myth: The flu always includes gastrointestinal symptoms.

One of the important trangkaso facts to note is that, while it can have a number of symptoms, digestive distress is rarely one of them.

People may mistake the “stomach flu” as some kind of flu, but the disease is totally different and refers to a group of viruses that primarily cause vomiting and diarrhea.

It is not caused by the influenza virus. The flu may lead to some gastrointestinal issues, but if these issues intensify, then it is time to see a doctor. 

Trangkaso Myth: You can’t die from the flu.

The flu can easily progress to serious conditions, like pneumonia, particularly in those who have other health conditions. In some cases, the flu can be fatal.

High-risk people include:

  • Babies or children up to four years old
  • Anyone 65 years of age or older
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Anyone who has low or compromised immunity
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Women who are trying to get pregnant
  • Anyone who has a chronic health condition
  • Anyone who lives in a long-term care center

It is important for vulnerable populations to get an annual flu vaccine to prevent severe cases or problems related to flu. 

Trangkaso Myth: You won’t get the flu if you take vitamin C.

Some believe that loading up on vitamin C can prevent colds and trangkaso (flu). However, vitamins cannot prevent the flu. Taking vitamins and vitamin C can improve your immune system, but you can still get the flu.

Trangkaso Myth: Don’t get a flu shot if you are sick or already have had the flu.

Flu shots are safe even if you have a fever or a mild sickness. The doctor, however, may suggest waiting until you are better. And you still should get the flu shot even if you have already had the flu. The flu vaccine provides protection against several types of the virus.

Trangkaso Myth: If you get a vaccine, you can catch the flu.

The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus, which cannot transmit infection. Upon administering the vaccine, it takes a week or two for the vaccine to take effect. Essentially, people who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were already on the way to getting sick. 

How Do Vaccines Work?

Myth: Pregnant women can’t get a flu shot.

Pregnancy causes immune, heart, and lung changes that increase risks for a bad case of the flu. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women, and can reduce the incidence of high fevers and severe infections, which can lead to pregnancy complications.

Fortunately, as the mother develops antibodies against the flu, this same protection is transferred to the baby through breastmilk, giving them immunity in their first few months. 

Myth: Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated.

Everyone, from the chronically ill to the healthy, benefits from getting a flu vaccine.

While fit people may just experience a minor inconvenience from the flu, they may just easily transmit the virus to more vulnerable members of the population, including family members with underlying health conditions.

Myth: You will not get the flu if you get the flu vaccine.

 The flu vaccine helps provide protection from the main types of influenza. However, you still can get the flu. Infection may have set in before you got the vaccine.

It is also possible to get another type of flu that may not be covered by the vaccine. But the vaccine can still provide some protection, and you are more likely to get a milder case of the flu.

Myth: There is no need for a yearly flu vaccine.

The influenza virus can change from year to year. The flu vaccine is adapted to protect against the main types of flu, so it is important to get the flu shot each year before the start of the flu season. 

Myth: You can catch the flu by sleeping with wet hair or being exposed to the cold. 

How many times have you heard your elders tell you not to sleep with wet hair or else you will get a bad cold or the flu?

However, the only way to catch the flu is by being exposed to the influenza virus. Bundle up when it is cold, but only because the flu season coincides with cold weather.

People often associate the flu with a cold, draughty environment, but there is no direct correlation between the two.

Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.

If you have the flu (or a cold) and a fever, you need more fluids. While you may have no appetite, energy from nutritious food and plenty of fluids will give relief and help fight the virus.  

The Common Cold: All You Need To Know

Myth: Porridge soup is the cure-all for the flu. 

When trangkaso hits, common home remedies almost always include bowls and bowls of hot chicken soup or rice porridge (lugaw).

However, while hot liquids can soothe a sore throat and provide much needed fluids, soup itself has no specific qualities that can help fight the flu.

Myth: If you have a stubborn flu and high fever that won’t go away, antibiotics may be necessary.

Most people think that antibiotics are needed to recover from trangkaso (flu). While antibiotics work well against bacteria, they are not effective for a viral infection such as the flu. However, people may develop a bacterial infection as a complication of the flu. If the symptoms worsen, seek the advice of a doctor.

When to see your doctor

Aside from telling the difference between trangkaso facts and myths, it also helps to know when to see a doctor.

In most cases, the flu can be treated at home and symptoms will go away on their own. It is important to hydrate and rest when going through the flu.

Some over-the-counter medication can be taken to relieve pain.

However, when symptoms continue, get worse, or if you are at high risk, it is important to go see your doctor. Signs of a worsening flu include:

  • Prolonged, high fever
  • Trouble breathing
  • Skin color turning blue (babies)
  • Constant chest pain or pressure
  • Fainting
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Not waking up
  • Continued vomiting
  • Severe sinus pain
  • Swollen glands in the neck or jaw
  • Ear aches or ear drainage

Key Takeaways

Though well meaning, flu treatment based traditional beliefs can be detrimental to one’s health. It could get in the way of good medical care. Make sure to check trangkaso facts, and take the necessary steps to stay healthy.

Separate fact from myth to avoid contracting the virus. This will also prevent spreading the flu to your family and others who may be in high risk groups and experience severe complications from the flu.

Learn more about respiratory health, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Sahlee Barrer · Updated Jul 12, 2020

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