The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


I’m sick. The common cold, or acute viral nasopharyngitis as them doctor types might call it (gotta love Wikipedia). I’ve got all the classic symptoms: head in a vise, hacking my lungs out, giant gobs of green stuff, aches and pains, and stupidity. That last item having the greatest impact on this blog.

It seems every time I return to Canada for Christmas I get some sort of nasty sickness. Flu, cold, alcohol poisoning…. The cold Canadian weather must be an incubator for all sorts of nasty germs that my softened Hawaiian immune system simply can’t handle. Cold weather = more colds. Common sense, right?


Cold Myth #1 – Cold Weather Makes More Colds
Turns out there is no evidence linking cold weather with a greater risk of getting a cold. Sure, there is an increase in the number of colds through the winter months, but doctors attribute this mainly to schools (germ factories) reopening, as well as colder weather forcing people indoors and therefore into more contact with each other and sneeze sprayed surfaces. The chance of catching a cold after exposure to the virus is just as likely in the summer as it is in the winter.

Cold Myth #1a – Catching a Chill
The chill, a favorite of mothers everywhere. Going outside with a wet head or getting soaked in the rain cannot cause a cold, period. No debate on this one. A cold is a virus, and viruses are not magically made by damp hair and cold air. The logical corollary of this is that bundling up will not prevent colds. This explains why those toqueless and coatless high school kids aren’t all hospitalized with pneumonia.

Cold Myth #2 – A Weak Immune System Increases Susceptibility
Also known as the "Get Your Rest, Dear" myth. Also bogus. This makes me feel better, because it means my lack of sleep and copious drinking weren’t responsible for my cold (so there, Mom). 95% of healthy adults become sick when the cold virus is dropped into their nose. In other words, cold buggies don’t care what condition your immune system is in.

Cold Myth #3 – Feed a Cold and Starve a Flu
Come on. We all knew this was garbage. But it is fun to pig out when you have a cold, and starving a flu isn’t usually a choice. What you do need in either case is plenty of fluids and enough food to satisfy your appetite.

Cold Myth #4 – Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea
Although it’s always a good idea to get your daily dose of Vitamin C, no double-blind studies have ever proven any link between a copious intake of C and the prevention of the common cold. Same goes for Zinc and Echinacea. We might as well throw chicken soup, steam inhalation, and nasal purging weirdness on the pile of mumbo-jumbo as well.

There are a ton of other cold myths out there. Milk helps mucus. Heated homes increase the spread of colds. In fact, if the cold remedy or cold prevention idea comes from a loved one or a TV ad, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a myth.

So a cold’s a cold. A virus. No more, no less. There are no magic cures outside of the placebo effect generated by the human brain (Cold-eze, Coldfx, Airborne, et al. can attest to this). I just have to suck it up and let this thing run its course. All is not lost however, for a cold is a great excuse for making mistakes at work, not getting the yard work done, and letting Google partially write a blog for you.

Where’s the Kleenex?


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I hate to say this, but your post makes me feel better, Steve. I've been waltzing with a virus for nearly three weeks now and chalking it up to aging. It's comforting to know you young'uns get hit once in a while, too. Hope you're back in Hawaii and suffering in warm weather, at least.

Tue Jan 08, 02:17:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Actually, Steve, I just read about a guinea pig study which showed that lowering the temperature increased the likelihood of cold viruses spreading through the guinea pig community. (They had several groups and kept them in different temperature environments and then put one infected pig in the midst.) The scientists then hypothesized that cold air helps the globs of the virus stay intake while airborn. So, there is now evidence that cold doesn't cause colds but helps the spread of them. So you can Saskatchewan after all.

Tue Jan 08, 12:15:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

In my above comment, in the last sentence, I left out the word 'blame' by accident, thus rendering Saskatchewan a verb.

Tue Jan 08, 12:18:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I like that, Andrew. 'I've been Saskatchewanned.' So much more interesting than 'I have a cold.'

Tue Jan 08, 12:40:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

I've had this thing for 3 weeks now too, Tricia. I wonder if we have the same nasty virus? And I also read that the frequency of colds actually drops with age. 8 or so a year for kids, 3-4 for adults, and around 1 cold a year for those over 60.

Tue Jan 08, 09:39:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Chumplet said...

I remember being sick every Christmas. I remember being wracked with feverish pain when my kids were small (the little stinkers did this to me). But it did indeed drop off in the last decade or so.

The placebo effect rings true when people with positive attitudes are less sick than Grumpy McGrumpers.

Steve, I'm afraid the alcohol poisoning might be entirely your fault even if the colds aren't!

Tue Jan 08, 11:27:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Nah, the alcohol poisoning was the alcohol's fault!

Wed Jan 09, 10:19:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

Steve, I've also been haunted by this "thing". It just won't go away nicely.

Sat Jan 12, 10:00:00 pm GMT-5  

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