Sept. 22 marks the first day of fall—the end of this relentless heat and the beginning of cozy sweaters and pumpkin-flavored everything. After months of sweltering heat, we may not remember the rules to avoid catching sickness in colder weather. Whether learned from caring parents or classic movies, there are a lot of cold prevention tactics and treatments floating around, yet many are far from true.
As cold season begins and we begin to see our friends and families with Rudolph red noses, travel packs of tissues and throat lozenges, it’s time to think about saving ourselves from the sniffles. To save you the trouble, we’ve debunked common cold-catching myths and old wives’ tales with some reliable health tips.
Myth #1: Going outside with your hair wet will make you sick.
A constant warning my mother gave me as I had a large dislike of hair dryers. However, mom, colds are caused by a virus, not my disastrous hairstyle. Unless you are so cold that you get hypothermia, which could make you susceptible to infection, wet hair or clothes won’t increase your vulnerability, it’ll just make you uncomfortable.
Tip: Dress appropriately for the cold weather for comfort reasons. Don’t worry about the condition of your hair; however, if it’s below 32 degrees, be well aware that wet hair will freeze into icicles, which is rarely a good look.
Myth #2: Going outside without a coat will get you sick.
We’ve all seen those idiots that walk around the snow in gym shorts despite the single digit temperatures. While a poor fashion choice, similar to Myth #1, unless you are so cold that you get hypothermia, you won’t contract a virus just by ditching your coat. In fact, you are more likely to catch a cold inside with all the other germ-filled people of the world than outside. Going outside for some physical activity and fresh air may actually help prevent sickness.
Tip: Enjoy the chilly air by picking up an outdoor activity, such as jogging, to improve your physical fitness, health and well-being. Keep hand sanitizer with you when you’re indoors to prevent germs from being easily spread.
Myth #3: Wearing garlic prevents colds.
Ever seen people take the vampire-chic route and wear cloves of garlic during cold and flu season? It’s true that garlic really can help your health—it’s rich in antioxidants, which can boost your immunity and fight inflammation. However, you need to ingest it to reap the benefits. Or do you? Experts recommend adding one to two cloves a day to your diet.
Tip: If you’re a fan of soup when you’re sick, consider a recipe along the lines of rich garlic soup with spinach and pasta shells to load up on vitamins, warmth and a touch of garlic.
Myth #4: If you get the flu vaccine too early, the protection will wear off before flu season is over.
Vaccines in general have been under scrutiny recently, including flu vaccines. It is false that you can get the flu from a flu vaccine and you definitely cannot get one too early. Flu activity is at its peak in the United States from December through February. Flu vaccines are designed to last for a full year. Thus, they will not only last until flu season is over, but even throughout non-peak flu season months. There is no such thing as too early for the flu vaccine.
Tip: College student? Talk to your health center—some schools offer free flu vaccines annually. Another option: Check out HealthMap Vaccine Finder and the like to discover the closest location for your vaccine needs.
Myth #5: You can starve a fever, feed or sweat out a cold.
If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not hungry or food makes you nauseous, cut back or change your diet to hangover foods. If you already are feeling disgusting, sweating like a pig is only going to make you feel worse. There is no scientific evidence that sweating can get rid of a cold. Unfortunately, you just have to wait for the virus to die out, which may take several days. It’s more important to feel comfortable during that not fun period.
Tip: Be proactive. If you feel a cold coming on, stock up on your essential food loves, cold medicine and movie favorites because you’re going to have to wait it out.
So, what can you do to avoid a cold? You might be reaching for Emergen-C or vitamin C tablets—unfortunately, research shows that they won’t do you much good, especially if you’ve already contracted the cold. All hope isn’t lost! You can be proactive by doing the usual boring routine; you’ve heard it before—boost your immune system with healthy foods, exercise daily, keep on top of your vitamins and make hand sanitizer your new best friend. Remember that public places and airplanes breed germs. Flu shots are important, effective and long-lasting, so make these suckers a priority (even if it means squeezing your eyes shut as the needle goes into your arm). If you get a cold, get comfy, get tissues and wait it out.
Have any cold prevention tips or myths of your own? Let us know by tweeting @LitDarling!
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