Truth or Fiction: Unmasking Common Winter Health Myths

December 8, 2014

“Yes, mom, we heard you! We know it’s cold out there. We’re grabbing our coats right now!”
“This scratchy throat and runny nose will definitely get better with some homemade chicken soup.”
“Of course we promise to cough into our elbows.”
We’ve all heard our mothers’ best remedies and advice for cold and flu season, as well as some old wives’ tales that have been passed along from generation to generation. Whether it’s the “feed a cold, starve a fever” adage or a “Mother knows best” solution for colds and the flu, we’re taking a look at some of the most common winter health sayings and solutions out there. We’ll walk you through what’s good advice - thanks, Mom! -- and what’s better left unsaid. Let’s get started!
“Feed a cold, starve a fever”
Parts of this are true. Staying hydrated and eating nutritious food can help amp up your immune system when you have a cold. But the same thing goes for fever -- calories can help give you the energy to fight off the infection.
“A bowl of chicken soup will set you right!”
Score one for mom! There’s a lot to love about chicken soup during cold and flu season. Any soup with lots of veggies can give you healthy nutrients that help with runny noses, sore throats and congestion. These ingredients help reduce the inflammation that causes these symptoms, putting you on the road to recovery. However, many illnesses take time to run their course, so view this as a help, not a cure!
“Cough into your elbow to keep germs from spreading!”
Another great Mom-ism! Since most infections are passed by close contact, coughing into your hand is a surefire way to spread a cold or flu. You exhale the germs into your hand, then touch surfaces or people, passing on your sickness. Coughing into your elbow keeps the germs away from others. Just be sure to wash your clothes in warm water to keep the germs at bay.
“Put a coat on. You’ll catch your death!”
Cold and flu season typically happen when it’s cold outside, so those winter weather means viruses will be going around. However, wearing a coat outside doesn’t prevent viral infections, nor does being cold  make you more susceptible to them. In fact, more infections happen due to close contact with infected people indoors! They may not have been right about this one, but hey, you’ll definitely be more comfortable braving the cold weather with a coat, so keep this one in mind anyway!
“You can’t go outside with wet hair!”
Much like the coat myth, going outside with wet hair may not be the most comfortable for you, but it’s pretty unlikely you’ll get sick from a less-than-thorough blow dry. The only time wet hair can actually cause problems is if you’re in danger of hypothermia.
Though there’s a lot of advice out there that’s not spot-on, Mom was right about one thing: a little love can make anything better. According to a University of Wisconsin study, empathy can actually shorten the duration of a cold! The study found that cold patients whose doctors scored high on an empathy scale suffered a full day less than their counterparts whose doctors were not so nice.
Our friendly doctors at AFC Urgent Care know that a little kindness goes a long way when it comes to cold and flu season, so while Mom may know best about some things, we’re also here to help ease you through those rough days with a little “doctor knows best” advice, too!
What’s your best advice for beating a cold or the flu? Share those remedies with us!

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