Common Cold Myth Busters
Don't go out with wet hair. Dairy creates mucus. Take vitamin C every day to avoid the sniffles. "We think they're all true-except they aren't," says Dr Rachel Vreeman, co-author with Dr. Aaron Carroll of Don't Cross Your Eyes...They'll Get Stuck That Way! (St Martin's). "Even as doctors, there are many things that we believe to be true, but when we look at the actual science, they're not." Here are some classic beliefs about colds and what research reveals.
Green mucus means infection
Not true. The colour comes from neutrophils or white blood cells that "eat up germs and digest them," says Vreeman. "One of the enzymes they have turns things green. It just means your body is working and you can't tell from that if you need an antibiotic."
Vitamin C fights colds
We can thank Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling for popularizing this misconception. A brilliant American biochemist who pioneered quantum physics, Pauling perpetuated the vitamin C myth by suggesting massive doses combat everything from colds to cancer. Although vitamin C does have an antioxidant effect that might ease mild symptoms, his beliefs have never been validated.
Hot tip: Mix equal parts of honey and lemon juice to make your own cough syrup. The ingredients "promote salivation and soothe the sore throat by lubrication. They can have a placebo effect, which is quite a powerful effect," says Eccles.
Wet hair and cold feet lead to colds
Don't tell her we said so, but your Mom might be right about this one. A 2005 study by Professor Ron Eccles at the world-renowned Common Cold Centre in Wales had volunteers sit with their feet in either chilled or lukewarm water. Within five days, 26 out of 90 had developed colds or symptoms. Why? Chilling the body may trigger a dormant virus by constricting nasal blood vessels.
Dairy products create mucus
Reasonable as it sounds, "there is no evidence that dairy products have any impact on the common cold" by creating mucus, says Eccles. In fact, he suggests eating probiotic-enriched yogurt, which "alters the immune response in the gut and that impacts the whole immune system in the body."