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?