Common Cold Myths

Marshfield Clinic Expert Offers the Facts

Sep 20, 2005, 01:00 ET from Marshfield Clinic

    MARSHFIELD, Wis., Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Did your mother ever warn you
 that you'd catch a cold if you went outside without a coat?
     Going out without a coat or with wet hair might make you feel colder, but
 it won't increase your risk of getting a cold, according to Michele Bachhuber,
 M.D., Internal Medicine Specialist at Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wis.
     "Colds are infections caused by viruses, not cold weather or dampness,"
 Bachhuber said.  "The notion that you'll catch a cold by being cold is one of
 many popularly held beliefs that simply aren't true."
     Myth: You are more likely to catch a cold in the winter.
     Fact: The "common cold" has nothing to do with cold weather. Cold viruses
 are actually more active in the spring and fall. The influenza virus is most
 active in winter.
     Myth: You're more likely to catch a cold from someone who sneezes than by
 holding or shaking someone's hand.
     Fact: Colds are most commonly spread by hand-to-hand contact, so be sure
 to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially if you come in
 contact with common areas such as doorknobs, telephones, public restrooms,
 automated teller machines and elevator buttons, where other hands have been.
 Soap and water are best -- and less drying -- but hand sanitizers will also do
 the trick.
     Myth: A bowl of chicken soup will cure the common cold.
     Fact: Although it cannot cure it, chicken soup certainly does help cold
 sufferers. The soup provides nutrition, while electrolytes in the broth help
 keep you hydrated. It can also help sooth an irritated throat.
     Myth: Drinking milk causes more mucus build up.
     Fact: Milk cannot be converted into mucus. Studies have shown there is no
 more mucus in those who consume milk compared with those who don't. What's
 more, milk provides nutrients and can help keep you hydrated while you're
 battling the common cold.
     Myth: Antibiotics can treat a bad cold.
     Fact: Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections and are not
 effective against viruses that cause the cold and flu. Taking antibiotics for
 viruses can build up your body's immunity to antibiotics and limit their
 effectiveness against a future bacterial infection. To help ease symptoms of
 the common cold, try over-the-counter medications, such as decongestants and
 pain relievers.
     Myth: You should feed a cold and starve a fever.
     Fact: No one knows exactly where this old saying originated, but there is
 no scientific evidence that eating will help ease cold symptoms, or avoiding
 food will reduce a fever. In general, while suffering from a cold and/or
 fever, it's important to consume enough food and water to meet nutritional
 needs and stay hydrated.
     "People are always looking for the magic cure for a cold but,
 unfortunately, there is none," says Bachhuber.  "Simple things like washing
 your hands and using a tissue when you sneeze or cough can really make a
 difference when it comes to prevention," Bachhuber said.
     The Marshfield Clinic system consists of 41 patient care, research and
 education facilities in northern, central and western Wisconsin, making it one
 of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States.
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SOURCE Marshfield Clinic