5 common facts and fiction about cold/flu

1. Getting a chill or going outdoors without proper clothing can cause a cold.

Being out in the cold weather or catching a chill does not cause a cold. Seasonal changes in relative humidity also may affect the prevalence of colds. The most common cold-causing viruses survive better when humidity is low — the colder months of the year. There is some evidence that extreme temperatures can “stress” the body and that can hamper immune function. Cold weather also may make the inside lining of your nose drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.

2. Antibiotics help reduce cold symptoms.

Antibiotics are of no value in treating a cold. The common cold is caused by a group of viruses called the Rhinoviruses. Antibiotics are helpful in treating bacterial infections. If a person with a cold develops a secondary bacterial infection, such as bronchitis, pneumonia or sinusitis, then an antibiotic may be necessary. To reduce symptoms, try taking a product like COLD-FX to boost your immune system. Health Canada approved the claim that it “reduces the frequency, severity and duration of cold & flu symptoms.”

3. Hand washing does little to prevent the spread of the virus.

Hand washing, when done properly, can help prevent transmission of cold and flu viruses. Viruses enter our body through our mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth). If you touch a phone, door knob, or other object right after someone who has a virus touches the same object, and if you rub your eyes, nose or mouth, you can contract that virus. Hand washing helps protect you and others.

4. Starve a fever and feed a cold.

This is an old wives tale and there is not a shred of evidence to support this saying when facing a cold or flu. Many people lose their appetite with the flu, and you don’t have to force yourself to eat, especially if your stomach is queasy, but it’s very important to drink lots of fluids and stay hydrated when you have a cold and the flu. When you sweat, you lose fluids and run the risk of becoming dehydrated.

5. Chicken soup will make you feel better if you are sick.

This is a common recommendation by many mothers and grandmothers and there is actually some truth to this one. In 2000, University of Nebraska researchers showed this old remedy does offer benefits. The study showed chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect, mobilizing the neutrophils and making them work a little bit better. It also keeps the mucus in the nose moving so that the virus, which sits in the nose, would mobilize faster and help speed recovery.

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