Mythbusters: Colds and their cures

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By Katelyn Billings

Cartoon-of-Cold-and-Flu1We are now moving right along into week four of winter term, and you know what that means: colds. The peak of the cold winter season is upon us, and for many people, that means catching a cold and getting sick. There are a variety of ways to catch and combat a cold, but which of those are actually true? You’d be surprised at which home remedies are actually not remedies at all!

1. Being outside in the cold will make you catch a cold: MYTH.We’ve all heard our mothers say, “You better put a sweater on; you’ll catch a cold,” but it actually isn’t the cold weather that leaves you more susceptible to catching the flu. The reason we see more colds in chillier seasons, researchers say, is the result of a number of indirect influences. First, the rhinoviruses that cause colds survive better in the drier air of winter. Additionally, the cold winter weather dries out the inside of your nose, leaving you more vulnerable to a viral infection. Finally, you are more likely to catch a virus while you are inside with many other people who do not want to brave the cold.

2. Riding on an airplane will increase your chances of catching the flu/cold: FACT.The flu virus is spread through the air, so when you are in close quarters with a large group of people, your chances of catching it are increased. Classrooms, dining halls, dorms and other areas of mass congregation are breeding grounds for viruses, and the more people who pass through the same areas that you do, the more likely you are to be exposed to their sicknesses.Make sure you wash your hands frequently, and do not touch your mouth or eyes after touching something in a public place, such as a doorknob, chair or desk.

3. Healthy people can’t get a cold: MYTH.Healthy people are just as susceptible to catching colds as people with symptoms are of getting worse.  A weakened immune system does not heighten the risks of catching a cold. Healthy and unhealthy people exhibit the same amount of susceptibility to colds, according to one study. Interestingly, the same study found that 95 percent of people who had the cold virus directly applied to their nasal membranes became infected, but only 75 percent of them exhibited any symptoms of the cold. This is called an “asymptomatic infection.” People under a lot of stress are, however, more likely to catch a cold than are relaxed people. Being overly stressed decreases immune system functioning, and leaves the body more vulnerable to a virus.  Try taking a nap or stretching out to relax.

4. Putting on extra layers and blankets can help you “sweat out” a cold: MYTH.The best cure for a cold is time. The flu virus is made up of 200 individual and complex virus strains, and will naturally be flushed out of your system in a matter of time. Adding extra layers will likely make you uncomfortably hot. Unnatural sweating will not reduce cold symptoms, nor will it speed up the recovery time. However, you should bundle up if you are feeling chilly while inside, but not unnecessarily so that you are forcing yourself to sweat. Making your body work harder than it has to while it is already combating the virus just weakens you and will most definitely not help you get better.

5. The saying: “Feed a cold, starve a fever”: MYTH.Often, we lose our appetite when we are exhausted and sniffly from a cold, so we don’t eat as much as we normally do.But when you are stricken with the flu, you need to be conscious of the amount of water you are drinking.  It is very important to stay hydrated when you have the flu because you lose a lot of moisture. Starving yourself in order to beat the flu is not helpful, and you will most likely feel worse without any food in your stomach. Good nutrition is key to getting better, but you should also be sure to not overcompensate and stuff yourself. Foods such as bananas, crackers and soup are perfect for a cold because they are easy on the stomach and also rich in nutrients that help restore your immune system. For the stuffiest of noses, foods with spices can help clear up sinuses by loosening mucus and unclogging your nasal passages.

6. Chicken soup and hot liquids are the best remedies: FACT.So as it turns out, Grandma’s homemade chicken soup is actually a medically recognized solution for a cold! There is solid medical evidence from a 2000 study done by the University of Nebraska, that proves chicken soup is great for relieving flu symptoms.Its anti-inflammatory effects mobilize inflammatory cells, which moves the mucus along and can make you feel better much faster.The warmth of soups and teas soothes your nasal passages and can help you breathe easier or comfort a dry throat.

I hope this collection of busted cold myths will help you not only feel better if you get sick, but also to prevent yourself from catching a cold in the first place! Maybe this cold and flu season could be the season you don’t get sick!

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