Common cold, as the name suggests, is one of the most common diseases in the world. While adults can have between 2 and 5 infections every year, children are more likely to catch a cold and most of them have between 6 and 10 infections yearly. But what do we really know about the most common viral infection in the world? Doctor Lica Craciun is here to provide us with insight into the 7 biggest common cold myths.
1. Vaccination – “Getting flu shots can keep the common cold away”
“The common cold can be caused by over 200 different strains of viruses,
so developing an effective vaccine is practically impossible”
The common cold should not be confused with the influenza virus. Many of my patients complain about getting flu shots and still catching a cold during the cold season. Truth be told, vaccination offers only slight protection against airborne diseases. You can still catch a flu after getting flu shots and you can definitely catch a cold after getting flu shots.
The common cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract. It can be caused by over 200 different strains of viruses so developing an effective vaccine is practically impossible.
Rather than looking for more vaccines for the common cold, I teach my patients on how not to spread it further, especially to their loved ones.
2. “Cold weather can make you catch a cold”
“Spending time in the cold actually stimulates the body’s natural immune system”
This is another common cold myth. Parents visiting me often complain about their children “spending too much time outdoors” or “playing outside too much” and then catching a cold. This is nonsense. Spending time in the cold actually stimulates the body’s natural immune system, making it harder to catch a cold or any type of disease or infection for that matter. Spending more time indoors can actually make it easier to catch a cold, so you shouldn’t avoid going outside, even in bad weather.
3. “A strong immune system can ward off the common cold”
False. Individuals can catch a cold regardless of the strength of their immune system. A poor immune system can increase the risk of developing a cold and it can make it last longer but even individuals with a strong immune system can catch a cold if the virus makes its way to the nose. On the other hand, a strong immune system can shorten the duration of the cold and reduce the risk of developing other health issues such as pneumonia.
You can learn how to boost your immune system here.
4. “Antibiotics can help cure the common cold”
“Taking antibiotics to treat the common cold can also lead to antibiotics resistance in the long run”
This is another common and even dangerous myth. Antibiotics should never be used as a means to treat the common cold. Many of my patients outright request antibiotics prescriptions when faced with the common cold but there is no medical evidence to support the fact that antibiotics can be used to cure it or alleviate symptoms. Antibiotics also have certain side effects and as such, should only be taken when faced with certain bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics to treat the common cold can also lead to antibiotics resistance in the long run.
5. “Wearing lots of clothes can keep the cold away”
Another ill-founded myth. Parents usually wrap their children in as much clothing as possible during the cold season. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help…at all. Of course, this is not a case of bad parenting, it’s just misguided parenting. First, we need to look at the way people can catch the cold virus: the virus can be transmitted through aerosols, also known as airborne droplets, contaminated objects like books, cups, crockery or through direct contact with nasal secretions.
One of the most common ways to catch a cold is through contaminated objects. So instead of just wrapping yourself in as much clothing as possible, I recommend strict hand hygiene, especially for the little ones since they are more susceptible to catch a cold.
It’s important to note that there is no known cure for the common cold. As a medical practitioner, I can only help patients soothe some of the symptoms associated with the common cold. As with a few other health issues, one of the most important things people need to focus on is prevention.
6. “By going out with wet hair you can catch a cold”
Another misconception is that by going outside with your hair wet, you’re sure to catch a cold. In fact, there is no correlation between cold weather, being wet or performing certain activities with less clothing on.
7. “Drinking alcohol can ward off a cold by making you warmer”
As appealing as this may seem, no amount of alcohol can really prevent the cold. The common cold is not caused by “feeling” cold, but by viruses. A small drink can make you feel a bit warmer because alcohol generally causes vasodilation, a widening of the blood vessels but this won’t help you ward off the common cold and it can also lower your core temperature, which can be dangerous in certain circumstances.
Dr. Lica Craciun is a family doctor with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field.