Common Cold Myths – Busted!


“Ahhh choooooo!”

When we don’t put ourselves as the centre of attention and start to notice people around, we would notice that lately there are in fact a lot of people getting sick. Cough, fever, flu are common complaints or rather reasons behind the absenteeism. However, not all the times people would visit the clinic for medications. Bet you wouldn’t too! Most of the people opt to try some home remedies instead, hoping the germs would get away ASAP because having a cold and being stuck at home is definitely no fun. Below are some of the “motherly” advice you always hear but are sometimes doubtful of them. Let's bust some common cold myths!

Be wise and no ice

One thing about having a cold is, Asian moms will usually advise not to have cold drinks because it is believed that cold drinks will exaggerate the symptoms. And when you finally ask why, no explanations are given and the only answer given is “Its being told by your grandmother so you should probably listen too.” Truth be told there is no scientific explanation on this but cold water is believed to cause the mucosal lining of the respiratory lining as well as the throat area to become congested and shrunk, which will then further increase the risk of exposure to infections agents like the virus. That's one common cold myth busted!

Sweat it out, sweat it out

Before we talk about fever, it is a must to understand the basics about fever. The factors that cause fever are usually the presence of microorganisms, inflammation and cancers. When fever occurs, the temperature set point of our body -- which is located in a part of our brain called hypothalamus (yes, it does sound like hippopotamus) -- will be raised and the body will feel cold. Thus, to cope with the increased set point, our body mechanism will try to increase more heat production by shivering. To reverse the process and reset the set point (because our body is a genius creation that knows when to stop and normalize a condition), the body sweats and dilates the vessels to increase heat loss. So, to wrap yourself like a burrito and sweat yourself or not, that’s your say.

Can’t stop, won’t stop crying

It sometimes gets annoying when people keep asking why you tear up all the time. The thing is, it is not under your control at all whether to cry. The tears keep filling up your eyes and makes you feel sleepy. This condition might be due to the blockage of the duct (nasolacrimal duct) that normally drains the tears away by the mucus, and thus causes tears to backflow and well up on the surface of the eyes. Infection is one of the commonest causes that lead to lacrimation. Now you know how to explain like a professional when being bugged by the same question next time.

Snuggle up and stay indoor

The common cold is easily transmitted through close personal contact and droplets through sneezing and unhygienic contact. Also, spread is facilitated by overcrowding and poor ventilation. Thus, it is advised to stay indoor to prevent transmission of the virus to others. Wearing a mask out is in fact another option if you are an outdoor person, or if you have to go to work. Protect yourself and the people around you, protect the community, tiny actions do make a vast difference.

“Drink more water”

One common piece of advice is to take more rest and drink more fluid. Though there is no clinical trial to prove that drinking more fluids can help reducing the severity of an infection, drinking plenty of water helps to replace the fluid lost from fever and evaporation from your respiratory tract. It also helps thinning your mucus to prevent congestion. But wait, no caffeinated drinks. Caffeine has a dehydrating effect on the body which does not help in this case.

Sleep is for the weak

Just kidding! It is an old wives’ tale that if you don’t sleep well, you will get sick, and there is some experimental data that shows this is true. Lack of sleep has been linked to weakened immune systems. Sleep deprivation suppresses immune system functions and it becomes tougher to fight off infections. Besides, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.

Chicken soup, really?

If you are expecting a bowl of chicken soup to have the magical ability to cure a common cold, then don’t. However, it certainly does have a soothing effect on your throat if you are having a cold, for it helps to speed up the movement of the mucus through the nose and also dilates your blood vessels to increase blood flow in order to flush everything out.

Because common cold is caused by virus, do not expect to receive antibiotics from the doctor. Unnecessary consumption of antibiotics will cause resistance in future and this is another big topic to discuss. Remember, take care of yourself and people around you. Spread love, not germs and learn the truth about common cold myths.


CBS News

NY Times


Merck Manuals

Kumar & Clark’s Clinical Medicine 8e

Angie Loh

by Angie Loh

A medical student with nothing but passion and a pen. Poems and novels never fail to make me feel alive. I'm inspired to make the world a better place and fill it with a little bit more love. But first, where's my coffee? View all articles by Angie Loh.


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