Humanity has been fighting the common cold for what seems to be an eternity, and no cure will likely ever materialize. And over the years, we have heard some fantastical ways to prevent the annoying sniffles, but most of those are obviously not rooted in anything resembling science. Here are five of the most common myths that continue to circulate, even in this modern day and age.
1. Don’t go outside with wet hair
How many times have our mothers yelled out of the front door as we heedlessly ran into the snow “don’t go outside when your hair is wet! You’ll catch your death!” These words have been spoken by every mother in the world at least once. But there is no reason to fear going outside in the cold with wet hair, aside from the uncomfortable feeling of frozen hair on the back of your neck. The fact is, viruses cause the common cold, not wet hair. So go run and play in the snow with your hair wet; just don’t complain about your frozen hat that is stuck to your head.
2. Starve a fever; feed a cold
This is a classic; when you’ve succumbed to the common cold, gorge yourself until it is gone. Regrettably, this does not work. Drinking lots of water to keep your body hydrated will work, but food will not. Starving a fever caused by the flu is also not recommended. According to a study conducted in 2008 and published in the Journal of Nutrition, mice who were suffering from the flu were given a low-calorie diet took longer to recover from the flu than mice who had a rich diet. In other words, start your diet after you are healthy.
3. Put your coat on!
Another myth from our childhoods, similar to the myth about wet hair is if you don’t wear your coat you’ll catch a cold. Mothers have been preaching this for centuries. Like I mentioned earlier, colds and flu are caused by viruses, not what temperature your body is. Indeed cold and flu seasons do correspond with the winter months, but you are much more likely to catch a cold inside than out. This is not, however, a suggestion to join the Polar Bear Club.
4. Put Vicks in your socks
This is a relatively newer myth, yet it still has no logical reason for working. In 2007, an email was circulated saying that putting Vicks Vapo-Rub in your socks will prevent you from getting a cough due to cold. No studies have been made, and for good reason. This wouldn’t hold much water under heavy scrutiny.
5. Chicken soup
Comfort food at its finest, chicken soup has been a staple for the common cold for as long as humans could catch a hen. Regrettably, chicken soup will do nothing to relieve or prevent the common cold. The only thing it will do is make your mind at ease and remind you of how your mother used to make you feel when you were sick as a child. Perhaps it functions on the placebo principle? Who knows; the bottom line is I will continue to have a nice bowl of chicken noodle soup each and every time I am sick, science be damned!