Cold and flu season seems to arrive earlier and earlier each year. As more people begin to sniffle and sneeze and feel lousy, they may look for ways to shorten the time they spend battling the flu.

Myths about the flu are nearly as plentiful as the myriad home remedies to banish it. Separating flu facts from fiction can help people more effectively deal with their next bout of influenza. The following are a few of the more widely spread myths with regard to the flu.

* Cold weather causes the flu. Going out in the cold weather with your hair wet is probably not a good idea if you want to keep your immune system healthy. However, the weather is not a direct cause of cold or flu. Rather, contact with the virus through contaminated surfaces or by saliva or mucous transmission is how many people catch the flu.

* The flu shot injects the body with the flu virus. Some people vehemently oppose getting the flu shot because they believe the immunization itself will cause them to get sick. Actually, the virus in the flu shot is inactive and cannot make a person ill. The virus used in the vaccine is grown in chicken eggs and killed off before it would cause illness. Minor reactions, such as muscle soreness, can occur at the injection site. Nasal flu immunizations do contain the live virus, but even with nasal applications, it is very rare to get sick from the immunization.

* You can starve a fever. Chills, fever and nausea are potential flu symptoms. The notion that you should "feed a cold and starve a fever" has prevailed through the years, but this treatment method really isn't beneficial. Although a person with the flu may not feel like eating much, he or she should try to remain hydrated and eat as healthy as possible. Salt and potassium are important electrolytes, so consuming crackers, bananas, vegetable soup, and fruit juices can help the body fight the illness.

* Zinc and vitamin C can kick the flu to the curb. Evidence that taking zinc and high doses of vitamin C will help make the cold or flu go away faster is somewhat mixed. Some indications point to throat lozenges with zinc as helping the body fight the flu. Although some people stand by mega-dosing with vitamin C, the body most likely won't absorb that much of the extra vitamin C for it to have any benefit. Getting vitamin C through fresh fruits and vegetables can help boost the immune system, however.

* If you received the flu shot last year, then you should be fine this year. Some people believe if they received the flu vaccine last year that they do not need to get vaccinated this year. But experts warn there are hundreds of different strains of flu viruses and vaccines are made from three of the most common types currently circulating. Therefore, a vaccine from last year may not protect a person this year. Even if a person had the flu in December, he or she may catch another strain in January. Vaccinations help individuals be safe rather than sorry.

* Antibiotics banish the flu. Running to the doctor for an antibiotic prescription will not make the flu go away more rapidly. Antibiotics cannot treat viral infections, even though they may be used to treat certain side effects or bacterial infections that result from the flu, such as an ear infection.