Truths and Myths About the Common Cold
By Sam Johnson
Well, it’s that time of year again -- the after-holiday cold season!
I don’t mean the frosty morning wind chilling cold season (although we’ve got that thing going, too), I’m talking about the runny nose, sneezing, hacking cough, sore throat and general overall misery type associated with that villain known as -- THE COMMON COLD!
At our home, the cold season almost always follows the holiday season, for a simple reason -- there are lots of people, young and old alike, giving and sharing good cheer, good times, and not-so-good germs. And this post-season, post-nasal scene is fairly wide-spread in other holiday homes as well.
Suffice it to say there has been plenty of sneezing, wheezing, and coughing going around our extended household, and I’m not feeling all that great myself!
I can live with a little achy feeling, dripping sinuses, even a hacking cough. But when I get that scratchy sore throat, look out. I turn into “the hooded grump.”
Every year I do the same things to combat this post-season sneezing -- I go to the store and buy out their entire stock of cough medicines, decongestants, antihistamines, cold tablets, aspirin; go back home and consume mega-doses of vitamin C, B, E, zinc and whatever is in the medicine cabinet; then prepare a pot of hot honey lemon tea. Finally, I settle into my lazy guy chair, roll the collar of my turtle neck shirt up around my throat, pull the hood of my sweatshirt over my head, and perform my throat soothing ablutions.
And every year my ritual works (at least eventually) to cure my cold.
But now I learn most of this is completely unnecessary.
According to a report by a New York medical center, most of us actually know very little about colds, how we catch them, and how to “cure” them.
See what you know about colds.
THE COLD CATCHER’S QUIZ
1). Colds are most prevalent in winter. True or False? (False: While there is no shortage of colds during the winter, they are most often contracted in September, October, or early spring).
2). If you go outside after a shower or bath with your hair wet, you will likely catch a cold. True or False? (False: Researchers have not been able to establish any connection between getting wet or chilled and catching a cold).
3). Vitamin C will protect you from colds. True or False? (False: Research has not been able to verify such claims, but mega-doses of it may give you diarrhea).
4). A cold is always in the upper respiratory tract and never in the chest. True or False? (True: A cold is a viral infection with some or all of the following symptoms: nasal congestion, runny nose, sometimes a sore throat. Infections in the lungs or chest are different and more dangerous).
5). By drinking plenty of water you will cure or combat a cold. True or False. (False: Although water can help loosen congestion and prevent dehydration, it will not likely help combat a cold. But if your cold includes a fever, then dehydration may occur and fluid intake is essential).
6). Kissing spreads more colds than shaking hands. True or False? (False: Researchers have shown that rhino viruses that cause colds are passed more easily by hand contact than by mouth contact because the mucous membranes act as barriers to the virus. Volunteers who had colds at the University of Wisconsin Medical school kissed those who were not infected for a minute and a half, and out of 16 trials, only one person was infected with the virus. While it’s smart to refrain from kissing someone when you have a cold, frequent hand washing is a better way to help prevent spreading your cold).
7). When you get a cold you can cure it with cold medicines such as antihistamines and decongestants, etc. True or False? (False: Although you may experience some relief from the cold’s symptoms, these medicines will not shorten or cure a cold and may actually have active ingredients that can work against each other and cause you other problems. The Common Cold will “run its course” with or without these cold medicines).
8). Drinking hot honey lemon tea and/or chicken soup can help a cold. True or False. (True: Both chicken soup as well as hot honey lemon tea contain ingredients that act as an anti-inflammatory which may help reduce cold symptoms. Experiments at the University of Nebraska Medical Center seem to prove this long-practiced home remedy.
9). Bed rest will make your cold go away faster. True or False? (False: While experts recommend rest, a cold generally lasts seven to ten days from start to finish whether you are up or in bed. “It just needs to run its course” is a TRUE statement.
10). If your cold is not better within a week, you should contact your doctor. True or False? (True: Although many colds may frequently last a week or longer, symptoms that hang on or become more severe may mean that you have something more than a cold and medical attention might be needed, especially if you have head, chest, or stomach pains, swollen glands, or if you run a temperature over 100 for three days or more).
So then, what can we actually do for a cold?
Researchers say grin and bear it and just try to wear it out.
As for me, I’m going to make a pot of hot honey lemon tea and call Mom for a bowl of her homemade chicken soup, just in case!
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