Cold, harsh truth on sickness
By Jeffrey Bramnick, Pure Matters
Researchers have cataloged at least 101 rhinoviruses -- the viruses that cause most colds. At times, it seems there are almost as many myths surrounding all that sniffling and sneezing.
"It's good to dispel these myths," says Jack M. Gwaltney Jr., M.D., a cold researcher and professor emeritus. Here are some myths as common as the common cold.
Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.
"This is one of those things that gets passed down, much like a nursery rhyme. There's nothing to it, though," Dr. Gwaltney says. Drinking plenty of fluid is a good idea in either case, but feeding a cold will do nothing to make you feel better.
Myth: You have to be run down to catch a cold.
Being tired has no bearing. "We placed cold viruses in the nasal passages of more than 300 student volunteers over a 10-year period at the University of Virginia, and we found that regardless of how tired they were, 95 percent of them became infected and 75 percent got cold symptoms," Dr. Gwaltney says. "These were young, healthy people."
Myth: Taking an antibiotic will make your cold shorter.
Colds are caused by several categories of viruses, and antibiotics do nothing to viruses. These medications are used to treat bacterial infections, which sometimes can follow a severe cold of long duration. "If you've had a cold for eight, nine days and it's getting no better, I recommend seeing your doctor," Dr. Gwaltney says.
Myth: Sleeping in a draft or exposure to cold weather can cause a cold.
In order to catch a cold, you need exposure to one of the viruses that cause a cold; just being exposed to drafts or cold weather won't give you a cold. Cold weather, however, may decrease your resistance to fight off a cold if you are exposed to one.