Wives’ tales of health

It’s cold and flu season and many of us are spending much of our time in search of ways to fight off the sickness or avoid it from happening altogether. For many of us, that includes taking part in old wives’ tale type remedies or avoiding certain behaviors to keep from catching a cold. And while some of these old traditions do ring true, it has often been shown that ideas of what causes colds or what helps you get rid of them is misinformation. Here is a list of some of the most common cold beliefs explained.

Walking outside with wet hair can cause you to catch a cold. I can’t even begin to think of how many times I have heard this one before. Thought to be true by mothers everywhere, this old myth is false. Skipping a blow-dry does not guarantee that you will catch a cold. You get sick by acquiring a virus, usually in your upper respiratory tract, that your immune system has trouble managing. This only happens when coming into contact with a sick person who might sneeze around you or picking it up from touching a doorknob contaminated with some sort of infection, for example. Going outside with wet hair does not affect your immune system in that way, and while it might not necessarily be a good look, it certainly won’t give you the sniffles.

Drastically changing weather brings on a cold. This myth is partially true. Drastic changes in temperature do not necessarily give you the cold, as you must actually acquire some type of virus to show any symptoms. Fluctuations of temperature do not actually trigger any sniffling or sneezing. However, there is some truth to the idea that colds do occur more frequently this time of year. This is because when the temperature drops, people are naturally more inclined to be cooped up inside of the house. Being in close quarters with a lack of fresh outdoor air makes it easier to pass a cold virus back and forth.

Comfort foods, like chicken soup, can help heal a cold. Commonly thought to be a myth, this belief is actually true. Chicken soup, or any other warm liquids, is comforting and helpful when you’re suffering from cold symptoms. They help clear nasal passages and aid the immune system while relaxing the inflammatory response often caused by an infection.

Honey can help a sore throat or control a cough. This belief is also true. According to research published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, sweet things help soothe soar throats and honey beat out cough suppressant dextromethorphan in symptom relief of children battling upper respiratory infections. That may be because honey is rich with antioxidants, which can help soothe irritated mucous membranes that trigger coughing.

Feed a cold, starve a fever. This is also an idea I hear universally shared when being advised on ways to combat a cold. The solution is to stay hydrated and maintain a proper caloric intake. Being dehydrated and consuming less than the recommended minimum of 1,200 calories a day can cause your body to take a longer time to recover.