First things first, what is the common cold? It is a viral infection. Many, many types of viruses can cause a cold. But the enormous amounts of common cold myths and untruths seem to grow every year.
A viral infection can be simple or can cause significant complications; therefore, even when your physician correctly tells you that antibiotics are not needed, parents should not label the problem, “just a virus” or “just a cold”.
Describing your child’s illness as “just a virus” may cause you to stop monitoring for complications. Illnesses can progress and may need to be treated differently at that time. Here is a great resource for understanding when antibiotics may be needed.
Most colds are associated with a stuffy nose. Although this adds to the miserable feeling of a cold, it is important to know that mouth breathing forces us to miss out on the awesome functions of the nose.
I have already stressed the value of saltwater nose washes and the benefits saline has on your health. There are also many suggested things you can do, and other supportive therapies to help prevent worsening problems.
I do understand that as a concerned parent, you are sharing your thoughts about what you have heard from “somebody”. But each time you repeat common cold myths, you are actually validating and supporting them.
In fact, every time you say one of the common cold myths, I suggest that you remind yourself that a cold is a viral infection. Then ask if a virus will do the things you are saying.
In truth, these common cold myths may not actually be hilarious, but you need to laugh them off. They are simply not true. Just because something is said a lot, or said really loud, does not make it a true statement.
If I say: This is a hot dog.
You might ignore me.
So then I might say it again, louder.
You might smile and say you don’t think so.
Then I might scream it: THIS IS A HOT DOG!
By now, some people will start to doubt themselves and begin to wonder, could this, in fact, be a hot dog?
The answer will always be no. No matter how many people say it or how loud they say it.
It is hilarious to think that a hamburger is actually a hot dog! It is just as hilarious to think these common cold myths are true. They are not now and they never will be true.
12 hilarious common cold myths that will never be true
Not wearing a coat or hat will make you catch a cold
If you constantly remind yourself that only a virus causes a cold these myths will fix themselves. There is a HUGE difference between feeling cold and catching a cold!
Now, it is true that in the winter when the weather is cold, there are many more viruses to make you sick. Also, because of poor weather, we tend to be indoors more often so can share more viruses. More coughing, sneezing and touching hands allow for more viruses to be passed around.
But being in the cold weather will only make you colder (and perhaps make your nose and eyes run a little more), not sicker. Remember you can catch a virus in the summer, too. Just not as many are around.
Going outside in the winter with wet hair will make you catch a cold
This is just as false as discussed above with the myth of needing to wear a hat, coat, scarf or gloves to prevent infections.
You may not feel warm and cozy when your wet hair hits the cold air, but you are not at any greater risk of catching a virus.
You only catch colds from being around sick people
It is true that many times, coughing and sneezing spreads mucus particles that contain viruses. Nearby people inhale viruses this way; however, viruses can live on furniture, toys, phones door handles for many hours.
Hand washing can be one of the best methods at reducing viral infections.
You are only contagious when a fever is present
When you have a cold, you are most contagious for the first 2 to 3 days, whether you have a fever or not. Some people never get a fever, some get a fever at the end of the illness.
This means that many people are contagious before they realize they actually have a cold, and they can remain contagious for the entire 7-10 period of time.
Placing Vicks VapoRub on feet or on socks helps to fight colds
Let me just say how much I love Vicks. It has been my go-to “hocus pocus” health treatment since I was young, and I certainly rubbed it on my daughters! But remember for health reasons, never put it INSIDE the nose.
I love the menthol under the nose to improve nasal congestion which helps with sleeping at night. Rubbing it on the feet, or putting it on the socks….this makes an assumption that it is absorbed and helps the body in some way. Nope.
Rubbing Vicks on the chest makes the area feel warm like a heating pad which might feel good after coughing all day. But it is not absorbed or helpful internally.
Wearing garlic prevents cold
No, but maybe will help keep away vampires! Just kidding.
However, eating garlic, which has documented antibacterial and antiviral properties, may have some beneficial effects to prevent colds! Most studies are not scientific but one small trial showed people who took garlic tabs every day for 3 months had fewer colds than those who did not. The garlic people also had garlic odor and rashes with daily use. So there is that.
You need to feed a cold and starve a fever
Many times we lose our appetite when we are sick. That’s fine because it is better to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. When we are sick, we often lose moisture due to excess mucus or sweating, so that is important to replace.
Eating is great because good nutrition is always a health goal and helps with your recovery. But force-feeding is not beneficial. Just wait until appetite returns.
It is not reasonable to intentionally starve yourself or overeat in order to treat either of these conditions!
Echinacea prevents or shortens the course of a cold
This one makes you say…Hmmmm. So, I guess it is not that funny of a myth.
Scientific research has shown the flowering plant extract has the ability to boost the immune system by increasing the number of infection-fighting white blood cells.
However, when many articles from 2014 were reviewed, there was only a slight improvement in reducing colds. Further research was then done that showed no improvement. So, don’t hang your hat on this remedy!
Milk worsens cold symptoms
Unless you have a milk allergy, drinking or eating milk products does not impact a cold. Many people believe that drinking milk makes their mucus thicker and more irritating to the throat; however, scientific testing has proven that milk doesn’t cause the body to make more mucus.
Untreated colds can turn into the flu
The flu is caused by the influenza virus. The common cold is frequently caused by a rhinovirus. These are two completely different diseases and are unrelated. So, a cold can’t “morph” into the flu any more than chicken pox and turn into the mumps!
If you or your child develops the flu, it was caused by a flu virus in the first place (which means you probably used a lame excuse to avoid getting a flu shot!)
But, generally, the flu is worse than a cold, with more intense symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and a dry cough.
I can use anti-flu medications to prevent colds
Flu antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, are intended to only work only against flu viruses; however, there is a growing number of physicians who do not like Tamiflu. These medications won’t help reduce symptoms from the common cold or any other flu-like illnesses caused by viruses other than flu viruses.
You have “leftover” prescription flu medication that you’re thinking of passing along to another family member who seems to have the flu? First of all, you should NEVER share your prescription medication with someone else. Second, as discussed above, it won’t work.
Only your physician can test you to see if you actually have the flu and then determine whether influenza medication will help you.
Colds can be reduced by taking high dose vitamin C
During cold and flu season, many people load up on orange juice and vitamin C supplements to prevent getting sick. But sadly, that may not be as beneficial as you think.
Research has shown conflicting results but seems to show that people who take daily vitamin C may have a slightly lower number of colds. However, a sudden increase in vitamin C does not reduce the risk of catching the common cold.
One study did show that show that vitamin C lowered the risk of getting a cold by 50% in male athletes, but not in females.
It seems that best way to keep your immune system strong is to eat a healthy diet that includes vitamin C rich foods every day!
Because so many Americans do not eat enough fruits and veggies, it might be prudent to take 250 mg of vitamin C daily, enough to support your immune system every day so you don’t need to play catch up.
So these are the Dirty Dozen common cold myths! Now you can become a trendsetter and help your family and friends out. Friends don’t let friends say these common cold myths. Set them straight.
Enjoy Dr. Burton’s skin care secrets with Kiehl’s products!