Believing old wives’ tales could be detrimental to your health.
Medically reviewed by Dr Louise Wiseman MBBS, BSc (Hons), DRCOG, MRCGP and words by Dr Roger Henderson
Most of us have contracted a cold or flu before and yet, there still seems to be a number of myths about colds and flus going around, from how you catch them in the first place to how you should treat them to recover faster.
Chances are that some of the advice we’ve received isn’t quite right – and with cold and flu season upon us, it’s a good time to set the record straight.
So, here, GP Dr Roger Henderson debunks six common myths about colds and flus:
Myth: You only catch a cold when someone sneezes on you
Fact: You’re more likely to be infected with a cold by touching a door handle, tea towel, or a handrail on the bus that’s been contaminated by the virus. Shaking hands also passes on germs. Once your fingers have been contaminated and you rub your eyes or nose, the virus could invade your body. However, with flu, people can more easily breathe in droplets containing the influenza virus that have been sneezed or coughed into the air.
Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever
Fact: Never starve yourself! Nutritious hot drinks and soups (rather than solids) are what you need. Hot liquids increase the temperature in the nose and mouth and help kill viruses off more quickly. Keeping well hydrated is important for any type of infection.
Myth: Going out with wet hair won’t cause a cold
Fact: This old wives tale was recently debunked, but actually it’s now thought that you may actually be able to catch a cold by getting cold. When we shiver, our whole body becomes quite stressed, which depresses the immune system. We have bugs in our nose all the time, and when the immune system drops its guard, these seize their chance. So your Granny may have been correct telling you to wrap up warm.
Myth: You can catch the same cold twice
Fact: There are around 200 simple cold viruses and, on average, we catch a couple each winter. However, once the cold ends, your body has built up immunity which will protect you from catching that exact same virus again.
Myth: Resting will help banish a cold quickly
Fact: Gentle exercise and fresh air are more likely to speed your recovery from a cold. But if you come down with flu, go to bed! Rest is essential to help you get better.
Myth: Antibiotics are the only way to cure colds and flu
Fact: Antibiotics are only suitable for the treatment of bacterial infections and do not work on viruses such as those that cause colds and flu. You will only be prescribed antibiotics if the cold turns into a secondary infection such as bronchitis.