Myths about the common cold

Friday, 14 June 2013

Myths about the common coldThe common cold is exactly that: common. There are more than two hundred different viruses that can cause a cold, and statistics show that most of us will catch a cold between two and four times a year. At any given time, five per cent of us are waging war against a cold. Colds are the leading cause of visits to the doctor and the main reason we stay home from work. Myths about the common cold are almost as common as the cold itself, but is there any truth in them?

You’ll catch a cold by getting cold
No, there’s no evidence that the weather has anything to do with whether you’ll catch a cold or not: you’re infected only when you come into contact with the cold virus. We’re more likely to get colds during the winter months, but this is probably because we spend more time indoors and our contact with contagious people is increased. Also, cold weather may make the inside lining of the nose drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.

Going outside with wet hair makes you sick
Forgetting to dry your hair before you go outside may make you feel colder, but a wet head doesn’t increase your chances of catching a cold. Unless you become so cold that you get hypothermia, which could make you more susceptible to infection, wet hair or clothes won’t increase your vulnerability. The only way you’ll catch a cold is when the virus reaches your respiratory tract by being breathed in through your nose or mouth or rubbed near your eyes.

You’ll catch a cold if you kiss someone who has one
The reality is that the quantity of virus on the lips and mouth is miniscule, and a much larger dose is required to infect us. It’s the nasal mucous that really transmits the virus, and you’re far more likely to catch a cold from someone coughing or sneezing near you.

You shouldn’t drink milk when you have a cold

The idea behind this one is that dairy products increase nasal mucous. However, studies show that milk has no direct effect on a cold at all: it’s digested like any other protein and is not specifically converted into nasal mucous.

Feed a cold, starve a fever

There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that excessive eating has any effect on a cold at all! In fact, having a cold may cause a drop in appetite, and experts recommend we listen to our bodies and eat accordingly. Good nutrition can play a role in how quickly we recover from infection, and staying hydrated definitely helps reduce cold symptoms.

Loading up on vitamin C stops you getting a cold
No, there’s no conclusive evidence that taking vitamins will prevent colds or substantially reduce their duration. In fact, taking vitamin C in large amounts over long periods of time may cause stomach cramps or diarrhoea.

You shouldn’t treat cold symptoms
We’ve been led to believe that allowing cold symptoms to ‘run their course’ will help us get over the infection more quickly. In fact, research indicates that the presence or absence of symptoms makes no difference to the duration of the cold. Coughing and a runny nose spread the infection more easily to other people, so controlling them not only makes the illness more tolerable but also helps keep it contained.

You can sweat it out
Well, sort of. Taking a hot bath or shower won’t cure a cold or even shorten its duration, but the steam can loosen clogged nasal cavities and moisten the mucus membranes, helping with congestion and easing some of the symptoms.

Antibiotics can cure a cold
No, they can’t. Antibiotics kill bacteria, but the common cold is caused by a virus which is not affected at all by antibiotics. Treating a cold with antibiotics may actually make it worse by killing ‘friendly’ bacteria and creating an environment more hospitable to the virus. Also, the overuse of antibiotics causes our bodies to develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can mean they won’t work when we really do need them.

Chicken soup will help a cold
Yes, this one’s true! Scientific research now backs up the benefits of this traditional cold remedy. Chicken soup can provide relief from the symptoms of a cold through its synergistic properties – the combination of active ingredients with medicinal and antioxidant properties, and the fact that it’s a warm liquid which helps the body clear mucous from the bronchial tubes.

A single cold virus can have sixteen million offspring within twenty-four hours, and there are new viruses arising all the time. Your best offence is good defence: maintain a year-round healthy regime of diet, exercise, sleep, and stress-management. And make a big pot of chicken soup at the first sign of a sniffle!

Written by

Fiona Rom, freelance writer and editor, believes that beauty and wellness have much to do with your state of mind, and that a sense of humour is your best defence against almost any challenge the world throws at you. Fiona on Google

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  1. Adele

    Very interesting and informative, I enjoyed it.

    6 years ago •

  1. margsc

    I am so pleased to read this, I will be sharing it with friends and particularly, FAMILY – who are always going on at me for going out with wet hair, having dairy products and not wearing jerseys!

    6 years ago •

  1. Khensani

    It’s like everything I know is wrong, haha. I didn’t know you were supposed to treat a cold. I would spend a couple of days feeling really miserable.

    6 years ago •

  1. ABeauty

    Oh my word! I have been a sucker for most of these myths. My hubby a firm believer of no dairy when he is sick.

    6 years ago •

  1. Nombeko

    Thnx soo much for the advice, will print out for my mother.

    6 years ago •

  1. steenkamp

    Very interesting. Almost all of the myths busted I believed.

    6 years ago •

  1. Nicksta

    Just got the flu this morning and I can’t stop sneezing!

    6 years ago •

  1. Miss Tee

    lucky me i only get the flu for maximum 3 days and dont really have to take meds or anything…strong immune system

    6 years ago •

  1. Pseudo_kate

    Haha, I’m laying in bed with the flu as I’m reading this article. How apt.

    6 years ago •

  1. Abby

    “You’ll catch a cold if you kiss someone who has one” myth is busted, glad to know!

    6 years ago •

  1. Sammy

    I’ve read on some of the myths, great to know for sure.

    6 years ago •

  1. Tundee

    I’m guilty of loading up with vitamin C. thanks for the information… Its really helpful

    6 years ago •

  1. Zellikinz

    I feel like that lady in the picture right now. Bleh

    6 years ago •

  1. Ayesh

    Wow. Amazing how much this article has cleared up for me. I finally know the truth. I had no idea that chicken soup actually helped! These tips will come in handy during the coming winter months.

    6 years ago •

  1. NaturalDiva

    i have been told most of these growing up!! especially that if i leave my hair wet, i will get sick and i must stay away from dairy because it produces mucus.. thank you for clearing this up!

    6 years ago •

  1. Simimano

    Very interesting and informative! :) There is always some or other rumor that sounds a bit funny that gets spread about the common cold..At least now I know all the facts! I’ll keep the chicken soup in bulk this winter! I would love to try making it homemade though!

    6 years ago •

  1. Pannack

    Using ViralGuard does help to boost your immune system though

    6 years ago •

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