Myths And Facts About The Common Cold And Flu To Know Right Now

July 23, 2023

Colds are prevalent throughout the winter months, and many ways have been recorded to help treat and prevent a cold. However, not all methods of preventing or getting rid of a cold are fact. There are more than two hundred cold-causing viruses that result in over one billion cases of the common cold within the United States each year. Knowing what is myth or fact about the common cold may help to prevent catching it this winter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend individuals who are over six months old to get a yearly flu vaccine to help protect against the virus.

Myth: Vitamin C Prevents Cold Symptoms

When patients feel a common cold coming on, it is not uncommon for others to suggest increasing levels of vitamin C. However, it is known vitamin C will not cure a cold, though it may shorten the duration of the sickness. A study found the common cold's duration was reduced by eight percent in adults and thirteen percent in children. Therefore, if a patient is already suffering from the symptoms of a cold, taking vitamin C may shorten the time they are sick. But remember, it will not prevent illness.

Fact: Being Cold Causes A Cold

It is often said catching a cold due to cold temperatures is a myth and what contributes to the influx of patients with the common cold is due to proximity during the colder months. While proximity does play a role, it has been proven that the rhinovirus, better known as the common cold, reproduces more efficiently in colder climates. The lower the temperature, the lower the response from the immune system. In a study, researchers were able to establish rhinoviruses preferred the nasal cavity, which ranges in temperature from thirty-three to thirty-five degrees Celsius over the lungs, which has a temperature of around thirty-seven degrees Celsius.

Myth: Flu Vaccine Causes The Flu

There are many misconceptions regarding the flu shot, with the biggest one being that the flu shot infects patients with the flu. The flu vaccine is currently manufactured in two ways: there are flu vaccines with inactive viruses that are no longer infectious, and there are those with no viruses, which are common for the influenza vaccine.

Some side effects of the influenza vaccine may include soreness, redness, tenderness, and swelling where the shot was administered, as well as a low-grade fever, headache, and muscle aches. However, throughout randomized studies, patients were administered either an inactivated flu shot or a placebo, with no difference in side effects other than the tenderness of the injection site.

Fact: Microbes Can Live Up To Two Days

We know for a fact the cold-causing microbes, known as rhinoviruses, can survive outside of the body for up to two days. The rhinovirus accounts for thirty to fifty percent of colds and can usually live for three hours on skin, surfaces, and objects, but they can also survive anywhere up to forty-eight hours. Objects these microbes might live on include buttons, doorknobs, keyboards, and kitchen counters. Essentially, this means any object touched regularly. The rhinovirus can be contracted by individuals touching the objects or shaking the hand of someone who is infected and then touching their face.

Myth: Avoid Dairy When Sick

It is often recommended that dairy should be avoided when sick, as it creates more mucus. However, increased mucus production is one of the body's defense mechanisms to fight off viruses and infections. Studies have been designed and conducted to examine the theory claiming dairy products contribute to producing more mucus, but the outcomes of these studies proved it does not.

Dairy can make mucus thicker and temporarily coat the mouth and throat. However, there is no real reason to avoid dairy with a common cold other than the annoyance of thick phlegm. Drinking more water, running a humidifier, or using saline sprays or sinus rinses will help alleviate the effects.

Fact: You Can Calculate How Far You Should Stand From Someone That Is Ill

Yes, how far away to stand from someone who is sick can be calculated. When someone coughs, sneezes, or talks, they disperse rhinovirus microbes that can travel up to six feet. A study found a sneeze can travel a visible distance of almost two feet at approximately fifteen feet per second and a single breath can travel the same distance, though at a much slower speed of 4.5 feet per second. With that being said, it is crucial to remain six feet away from those who are ill to stay clear from the cold-causing rhinovirus.

Myth: Antibiotics Help A Cold

Unfortunately, antibiotics do not help with combatting the common cold, as antibiotics are used to fight bacteria-related illnesses, whereas the common cold is caused by viruses. Using these types of medicines when it is not necessary, or otherwise misusing them, can lead to antibiotic resistance. This can grant resistance or immunity to bacteria, making the bacteria-related illness more difficult to treat.

By not completing a prescription as prescribed by a doctor, bacteria can survive and continue to multiply. It is imperative to use antibiotics as they are prescribed and do not share medication with anyone else, or take antibiotics from anyone other than a registered health practitioner.

Fact: Best Way To Avoid A Cold Is With Hand Hygiene

Standing six feet away from those who are infected with the rhinovirus is vital to keep the cold at bay. However, cold-causing microbes can still be on many surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs and keyboards, for quite some time after a sick individual touched them. To avoid catching a cold, individuals should wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least fifteen to twenty seconds after touching any object that might have been contacted by someone sick, or as often as possible. Other ways to maintain good hand hygiene is by using alcohol wipes and gel sanitizer regularly.

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