Below are six common cold-weather myths we asked Dr. John about. If you want to know the true/false answer, highlight the area under the question to see the answer - which is hidden in white font.
1. Cold weather makes you sick
Studies have found that whether we get chilled during cold weather outings or not doesn't make a difference in whether we come down with a cold. Cold weather does tend to keep us indoors around other people more and that could be part of the reason colds and the flu are seen more in winter months. Also, our noses run more in cold weather so we tend to rub them more with our hands, which we don't always wash.
2. Chicken soup fights a cold
Although this might seem like something your Mom came up with to get you to have some soup it turns out she knew what she was talking about. The stuff in chicken soup not only helps boost your immune system but also can think your mucus. And that thinning of the mucus means viruses are less able to find a good footing in your nose. Chicken soup also acts like an expectorant helping you clear your throat and sinuses.
3. We lose most of our heat through our head
It turns out that your head doesn't lose any more heat than any other part of your body. We tend to cover up other parts of our bodies during cold months and oftentimes leave our heads exposed to the elements. Because of this it might seem that our heads lose more heat when in fact they are just more exposed to the elements. You'd probably get the same effect in reverse if you wore a hat but no pants. Then your legs would lose more heat than any other parts of your body. But you'd also get a lot more stares and strange looks from those around you.
4. Feed a cold and starve a fever
This is probably something you've heard all your life. But it turns out it's simply not true. Although no one can really pinpoint how this myth originated it's just that, a myth. Whether you have a cold or a fever you need to stay hydrated. The best way to do that is to push plenty of liquids, including soups. And keeping your nutrition up by eating can also help give your body it's best energy supply it can use to fight back against that same cold and fever. So the next time you have a cold or a fever drink plenty of fluids and eat foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants, especially fruits and vegetables. That'll help you kick the infection as soon as possible.
5. Wet hair outside can make you sick
Most of us have probably heard that if we go outside in the cold with wet hair "you'll catch your death of a cold". This simply isn't true. Although having wet hair can cause you to chill down quicker it won't make you any more susceptible to viruses, including those causing the common cold or the flu, than if your hair was dry. Our immune systems don't simply don't act that fast. But since it will make you feel colder you might want to wait until it's dry to go outside, simply because it can make you more comfortable.
6. Viruses thrive in the winter
Although the cold weather doesn't make us catch a cold more often, we do tend to get more colds in the winter. Cold temperatures help the viruses spread faster and better through the air. On top of this we tend to hang out more indoors, closer to other people which allows viruses to more easily jump from person to person. And once that virus jumps to us, we get a cold or the flu. The cold doesn't affect us or our immune systems as much as it tends to strengthen the virus and its ability to spread.
If you have other myths you want debunked, email Dr. John at email@example.com with "Ask Dr. John" in the subject line.
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