Colds and Flu : Facts vs Myths

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There are so many myths going around about colds and flu that it can make it more difficult to understand and treat these two ailments. For instance, many people think you are more likely to catch a cold in the autumn or winter. Fact or myth? Let’s take a look.

1. You are more likely to catch a cold in the winter:

The real fact is that the common cold has nothing to do with cold weather. Over the years the impact of cold weather on colds has been studied repeatedly and none of these have shown that weather conditions or getting chilled or overheated affected either the development or severity of colds. The same goes for lingering in wet clothes or going outside with wet hair.

The weather may play an indirect role. Most viruses that cause colds and flu survive better when humidity is low, which is the case in autumn and winter. Cold weather also promotes drying of the nasal membranes, making them more vulnerable  to infections.

2. Stress increases your chances of getting a cold or flu:

This a good point and one that will cause some debate. What we do know is that people who are under chronic stress are probably more likely to develop complications from a cold or flu. Dr. Erica Brownfield professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in the US says: “For those individuals who have acute stress in their life, they shouldn’t be concerned about developing more colds and flu under typical circumstances.”

However prolonged psychological stress could weaken your immunity which can make you more susceptible to catching viruses such as the cold and flu virus.

3. Flying on an airplane will increase your risk of catching a cold or the flu:

For those of you who are frequent flyers, here is a bit of bad news: Riding on an airplane may increase your risk of catching a cold or flu, but it’s not clear if the risk is any higher than when being in other crowded areas.

Since colds and flu are spread from person to person and are highly contagious, being in an enclosed environment like an airplane with someone who is infected with the cold or flu virus makes you so much more susceptible to getting infected.

4. Chicken soup can cure a cold or the flu:

Don’t be silly. Of course chicken soup won’t cure a cold or flu. We all know that there is no cure for the common cold. What chicken soup and other hot liquids and even honey will help you with is to make you feel better much sooner. It hydrates you and can soothe a sore throat.

A study at the University of Nebraska in the US showed that chicken soup actually has an inflammatory effect, mobilising the inflammatory cells and making them work a bit better. This keeps the mucus in the nose moving so that the virus, which sits in the nose, would mobilise a bit faster which could potentially help you feel better faster.

The important thing is to have balanced small meals, keep hydrated and if you like chicken soup, go right ahead and have some.

5. Antibiotics can treat a bad cold:

Colds are caused by viruses. There are more than 200 different viruses that can produce the common cold. Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections and are not effective against viruses.

What could happen is that you may develop a bacterial infection due to a worsening cold or flu which weakens your immunity further. This may prompt your doctor to prescribe antibiotics for you, to alleviate the bacterial infection not to treat the cold or flu. A good doctor will explain this to you while your prescription is being written.

6. You should feed a cold and starve a fever:

This is a very old and very untrue saying and hopefully not something you will hear from your doctor.

When you have a cold or the flu your body is under a lot of stress, fighting the viral infection. Big heavy meals take a lot of energy to digest, precious energy your body could be using to fight the infection. The best thing to do is to eat balanced small meals and drink lots of liquids – water, fresh fruit juices and, if needed, soups. Stay away from high processed foods.

7. Herbal remedies are helpful for treating colds and flu:

Like chicken soup a herbal remedy will not cure your cold, but in many cases a herbal remedy can alleviate many cold and flu symptoms and allow you to feel better. For many people, head and chest congestion are the most irritating aspects of being sick because a stuffy nose and heavy head makes it very difficult to sleep.

Humidifiers utilized in conjunction with a herbal aroma like eucalyptus can provide substantial relief from head and sinus congestion as well as help soothe an itchy or scratchy throat. Ginger root tea also helps relieve head and chest congestion while staving off the chills.

Next Wednesday I will take a look at cold-weather remedies that should help you to stay well or at least help cut the duration of most winter health challenges.


Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.

Sources:

Cold-Weather Remedies, published online – drweil.com

Busting common cold myths, by Mike Adams, published online 27/09/07, naturalnews.com

10 Myths About the Common Cold and Flu, By Joseph Brownstein, ABC News Medical Unit, published online 4,09,08 , abcnews.go.com ??30 Foods that fight fat ??, by Ian Marber, MensHealth magazine October 2008, page 71

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