Some old wives’ tales have no basis in fact
Q: My grandmother always said you can catch a cold if you go outside in winter without a coat. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true, but what if I go out with wet hair? Can I catch a cold then?
A: The common cold, also known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection, is a contagious disease that can be caused by hundreds of different types of viruses. Because so many different viruses can cause a cold and because new cold viruses constantly evolve, the body never builds up resistance against all of them. For this reason, colds are a frequent and recurring problem. In fact, children can have up to 12 colds per year while adults typically have two. The common cold is the most frequently occurring illness in the world. As soon as the cold virus get into our nose, it will rapidly reproduce and will not be relieved by frequent nose blowing or sneezing.
Cold viruses infect the victim’s upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, eyes and throat). Symptoms include runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, congestion, coughing and sneezing.
You can prevent a cold by disinfecting surfaces likely to be touched by an infected person, such as phones, doors and doorknobs. You also should wash your hands after touching potentially infected surfaces as well as after shaking hands with an infected person. Although difficult to remember, keeping your hands away from your eyes and nose will work, too.
A cold makes you feel miserable. Make yourself more comfortable by drinking plenty of fluids and keeping up your nutrition to strengthen your immune system. Note: Antibiotics work against bacteria, while most colds are viral. So taking antibiotics, sucking on cough drops and drinking bottles of cough syrup may relieve symptoms, but will not cure a cold. Chicken (or any hot) soup, tea, coffee or hot drink will help as the steam opens the sinus passages and the warm liquid soothes a dry, ticklish throat. Contrary to popular beliefs, drinking milk and eating milk products will not increase the production of mucus or in any way make your symptoms worse. Exercise helps. Alcohol may help you sleep better, but it won’t drive away the virus. In fact, it may have the opposite effect because alcohol lowers your immunity.
What is indisputably true is that water in any form, whether it is hot or cold, cannot make us sick (except from drowning). You can shower 10 times per day; stand out in the rain in wet clothes; swim in the ocean; go from a hot steamy room into a cold air-conditioned one or jump from a hot tub to an ice bath and you will not catch a cold. Though the common cold usually coincides with cold weather, it is not a direct cause. Rather, it is during inclement weather when people spend more time indoors in close proximity to each other, making it easier to spread the virus. Interestingly enough, cold germs will not spread by mouth (kissing) or by eating foods that have been sneezed or coughed on as the cold virus does not infect the digestive tract.
Rather than spread myths along with our cold germs, let’s join together to spread scientific truths. A professor at George Washington University Hospital made an offer to students that if they were able to “catch a cold” without a virus, he would pay each of them $1,000. No one has yet to collect and these students tested every myth ever conceived by man. Are you courageous enough to put your myths to the test?