Eight Myths About The Common Cold

June 23, 2014

In life, we face few experiences as universal as the itchy throat, runny nose, congested chest and other discomforts that come with the common cold. Even fewer illnesses are as surrounded by theories, old wives’ tales and other misperceptions as the common cold.

Myth: Exposure to cold air or changes in temperature cause colds.
Fact: Nearly all colds are caused by a variety of respiratory viruses, the most common of which is rhinovirus. Viruses are passed from person to person through contact with secretions from an infected person. These secretions can be coughed into the air and come directly in contact with another person’s nose, mouth or eyes, or can be transferred through hand-to-hand contact or contact with contaminated objects or surfaces. So, cold air does not have an impact on whether you contract a cold.

Myth: Antibiotics can cure a cold.
Fact: You can treat the symptoms of a cold, such as fevers, aches, cough and sore throat, to make the patient more comfortable, but the only cure for a cold caused by a virus is time — colds simply have to run their course. They last seven to ten days on average. Antibiotics are not recommended to treat a common cold.

Myth: People with colds should abstain from exercise.
Fact: Exercise will not worsen a cold. However, extreme exercise can weaken the immune system and make it harder and longer to recover. If you have a chest infection with a severe cough, moderate your exercise to accommodate energy levels.

Myth: Feed a fever, starve a cold.
Fact: Again, the only cure for a cold is time. What you eat or don’t eat, will not affect the duration of your cold. That said, proper nutrition and hydration are necessary for recovery from any illness, so be sure to eat well and drink plenty of fluids.

Myth: Hot tea and chicken soup will not hasten recovery.
Fact: People with a cold can become dehydrated because they don’t drink as much as they would normally if they are feeling well. It is important to drink plenty of fluids in order to stay hydrated. There are no wonder foods to treat a cold, but a healthy diet makes for a healthier immune system in general. There are plenty of reports that broth soups can help you stay hydrated with proper electrolytes, provide an anti-inflammatory effect and decrease mucus buildup, so feel free to dive into that bowl of soup if it makes you comfortable.

Myth: Over-the-counter supplements like zinc can prevent a cold from developing.
Fact: There is no proven benefit of supplements treating or preventing colds. However, there are a number of natural remedies such as vitamin C and garlic that can help boost your immune system so that your body can better fight the infection.

Myth: A cold is a precursor to contracting the flu.
Fact: Flu viruses circulate during the winter season and can cause symptoms similar to a mild cold. Many people with the flu may not recognize that they have the virus because they assume it’s the common cold. Influenza virus, the virus that causes the flu, and some bacteria, including the bacteria that cause whooping cough, can cause an infection that mimics the common cold. While there are no specific treatments to kill the viruses that cause colds, there are medical treatments for the flu and whooping cough. (To avoid getting the flu, get a flu shot. You can get an affordable and convenient flu shot at Healthcare Clinics at Boca Regional Urgent Care)

Myth: A wet head can make you sick.
Fact: The only thing that causes a cold is the cold virus, which spreads from an infected person through airborne and surface interaction.
Don’t despair if you’ve been mining your mom for her best remedies for the common cold. Often times, the placebo effect of thinking you’re getting better can help you heal faster

Back to Blog
This website requires javascript. Please enable it or visit to find a modern browser.