Flu myths: The flu shot won't make you sick, and whiskey won't cure you

Whenever you're sick, there always seems to be a family member or friend, ready to tell you an old wives' tale or family secret for curing your ailment. Dr. Rachel Franklin said most old wives' tales are centered on making a person feel better, rather than shortening the course of an illness.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: January 7, 2013
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The headline reads “Influenza Rages in Oklahoma City; Whisky is Needed.”

It was December 1918, and the Oklahoma City Police Department was getting inundated with calls, people requesting whiskey to, allegedly, alleviate their flu-like symptoms.


Between 20 million and 50 million people died during the 1918 flu pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, including 675,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And in the midst of all the fear from pandemic, people wanted whisky, or whiskey. Why? Because many believe it can help with the flu.

As a family doctor, Dr. Rachel Franklin hears several different types of flu myths. Franklin said most old wives' tales are centered on making a person feel better, rather than shortening the course of an illness.

For example, bourbon was in Franklin's first cough syrup as a child. Even though liquor won't cure an ailment, it can make you feel better, she said.

“The old timey good ol' Southern cough syrup remedies were honey, whiskey and a twist of lemon, the ol' hot toddy,” Franklin said. “The way it works is the honey coats your throat, so your throat feels better, the warmth of the concoction soothes your chest, and alcohol is a respiratory depressant, which means you cough less. It's also why if you drink too much, you pass out, and don't breathe any more.”

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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