9 Myths And Facts About The Common Cold You Should Know According To Experts
Being around people that are constantly coughing, sneezing and sniffling normally means one thing, that you’re going to be the next person to catch what they have.
And while many people have a couple of strategies up their sleeve that they resort to in order to keep themselves from getting sick, or in the case that they actually do catch a cold, these old tricks of the trade that have been passed down from one generation to the next may not actually work. It doesn’t matter what your grandma told you.
If you want to better understand some of the truths versus some of the myths when it comes to catching or recovering from a cold, we’re providing real facts from actual healthcare experts to help you get better faster.
- MYTH: Vitamin C Prevents Colds
FACT: According to an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, Catherine Ling, PhD, RN, “The evidence is not clear as to the impact of vitamin C. There is some evidence that it may shorten the duration of a cold slightly for some people. But people who have kidney disease and those who are pregnant should not be taking large doses of vitamin C. Large doses can cause gastrointestinal upset.”
- MYTH: Eating Dairy Will Produce More Mucus
FACT: “Dairy can make mucus thicker and may not sit well in the stomach of someone running a fever,” Dr. Ling says. “However, dairy does not increase mucus production as a general rule. Some folks with a sore throat may find frozen or cold dairy products like popsicles or yogurt to be soothing.”
- MYTH: Antibiotics Will Treat a Cold
FACT: Daron Gersch, MD, a family physician with CentraCare Hospital in Long Prairie, Minnesota, and a board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians said, “Antibiotics treat infections caused by bacteria, and colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics work by killing bacteria or slowing its growth, and can treat bacterial infections like bronchitis, strep throat, and ear infections. However, they cannot ‘cure’ viral infections and can actually cause dangerous antibiotic resistance if used too often and incorrectly.”
- MYTH: Your Cold Isn’t Contagious Unless You Have a Fever
Moreover, Dr. Gersch says that while COVID-19 can be contagious up to two days before symptoms appear. He adds, “Colds can be contagious even a day before symptoms begin, and are most contagious in the first four days after symptoms start. Viruses can stay in the body for weeks even after symptoms have gone away, but the chance of spreading infection lessens as time goes on.”
- MYTH: Colds Don’t Cause Fevers, Only Flu Does
FACT: Dr. Ling shares, “Colds and the flu are caused by different viruses but can have similar symptoms. You may or may not run a fever or feel achy or tired with both. A fever is one of your body’s defense mechanisms to kill off foreign invaders.”
- MYTH: Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever
FACT: As per Dr. Ling, “People should rest and hydrate. If you don’t feel like eating or are running a fever, it is critical to stay hydrated and keep the fluids and electrolytes on hand. Chicken soup really is excellent — easily digestible protein, hydration, and steam all help you heal.”
- MYTH: You’ll Get a Cold If You Go Outside With Wet Hair
FACT: “While going outside with wet hair may make you feel cold, it will not cause a cold or other sickness. Illnesses are caused by viruses and bacteria, typically when you’re in close contact with another person who is sick. That said, you should make sure you’re wearing warm clothing to protect against harsher climates,” Dr. Gersch says.
- MYTH: Medications Can Cure Colds
FACT: Dr. Ling says, “Medications can not cure a cold. There is no cure for a common cold. Medications can decrease your symptoms, like fever and body aches. The actual cure for a cold is rest, hydration, and time.”
- MYTH: You Can’t DO Much to Prevent Getting a Cold
FACT: “During the winter months it’s more important than ever to take precautions against colds and other illnesses,” Dr. Gersch says.
The best ways to prevent a cold include:
- Washing hands frequently with soap
- Getting enough sleep
- Staying hydrated
- Eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods to boost the immune system
- Cleaning commonly touched surfaces like tables, counters and toys with disinfectants
- Staying away from others who are sick
Vaccines for the common cold don’t exist, however there are other vaccines that can help prevent respiratory infections which cause cold-like symptoms too, shares Dr. Gersch. These vaccines include the flu, COVID-19, and for those that are eligible, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).