Common Cold Myths

Common Cold Myths
Tis The Season …

It’s that time of the year again when we hear that first sneeze or cough in the office and we begin to cringe, knowing that the “cold season” is on its way once again. Now’s that time of year when we begin to bundle up, warm up the chicken soup and throw another log on the fire, in preparation to battle against our own colds. And as I find myself battling the elements of this (2010) year’s winter storms – yes I was one of those lucky few to get hit by all of the weather problems in Europe only to be trapped less then a week later by the storm that hit the North East of US – I am reminded of some of the myths that surround our personal health at this time of year.

Myth #1: Antibiotics will help shorten the duration of a cold and may even prevent it.

The reality is that antibiotics won’t do anything to help prevent or cure a cold and can actually cause more harm than good. The problem is that viruses cause colds and that antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections. Over the years they have been overprescribed as a way for doctors to make their patients feel better and not go home empty handed. This misuse has lead to the development of some nasty bacterial infections such as MRSA. A better course of action to take care of yourself is a combination of over-the-counter pain relievers and antihistamines. Think Tylenol and Benadryl.

Myth #2: You will catch a cold if you are not bundled up when you go outside.

This is my wife’s favorite and it drives her nuts when she sees me walking out to the car to get something or taking out the trash with only a light shirt on in the winter. Studies have shown that being “chilly” doesn’t make you any more susceptible to catching a cold. The common cold virus actually thrives in warm, moist conditions, not chilly weather. What colder weather does do is make your nose run, which may lead you to believe you are sick.

Myth #3: Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold.

Jennifer Ackerman, author of the book ‘Ah-Choo: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold’ writes: “This myth may date back to the time when colds were thought to be caused by chills.” The belief that eating foods would help generate more heat, keeping the body warmer and allowing a quicker recovery. It is vitally important to ensure that you look after your nutrition, even more so when your sick, “… but there is no evidence that overeating will make you heal faster or feel any better.”

Myth #4: Taking immune-system booster products will help you cure a cold.

Your symptoms, such as runny nose and sneezing, aren’t a result of the cold virus itself. It is actually a normal response to your body’s immune system responding to the virus and is an indication that your body is doing what it is supposed to do. Taking immune-boosting products may actually overstimulate these inflammatory agents and could result in your symptoms worsening.

Myth #5: Blowing your nose harder will help you breathe easier.

The mucus in your nose is not all that is causing the blockage. It is a result of the blood vessels that line the nasal passages swelling. Normally they alternate with one side being slightly more inflamed then the other, but when you have a cold the swelling on both sides becomes exaggerated. Blowing your nose as hard as you can won’t alleviate the stuffiness and can, instead, push mucus into the sinuses and cause sinusitis. Nasal sprays, such as Afrin, have a temper effect of relieving some of the stuffiness by reducing the swelling of the nasal passages. But be forewarned that when these sprays wear off, the nose will actually swell more then they were before.


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