Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five Bogus Cold and Flu Myths Your Mom Believed

It's November, which means we're all about to start getting sick. And the magazine "Prevention" has a list of the five most common myths about how to prevent and recover from a cold.

--They're all things your mom probably said were true . . . but she was wrong.

MYTH #1.) YOU'LL GET SICK IF YOU GO OUT IN THE COLD WITH WET HAIR. Researchers gave two groups of people the same cold virus, then exposed one group to cold, wet conditions while the other group stayed dry.

--You'd think it would make a difference, but it didn't. The people who stayed dry were just as likely to get sick.

MYTH #2.) FEED A COLD, STARVE A FEVER. Actually, you should drink plenty of water and keep eating either way. It doesn't matter what your symptoms are.

--When you have a head cold, your immune system needs the nutrients. And when you have a fever, your metabolism speeds up and needs more calories to keep fighting off infections.

MYTH #3.) IF YOU HAVE A COLD, YOU SHOULD AVOID DAIRY PRODUCTS. It might seem like dairy products make your body produce more mucus. But research shows that's probably just an example of the placebo effect.

--In other words, in one study, people who knew they were drinking milk reported more nasal symptoms than people who drank soy milk. But when they didn't know which kind of milk they were drinking, they only reported minimal effects for both.

MYTH #4.) YOU LOSE MOST OF YOUR BODY HEAT THROUGH YOUR HEAD. Wearing a hat DOES help you retain body heat, but not because that's where you lose most of your body heat.

--You only lose about 10% of your body heat through your head, neck, and face. Which makes sense, because your head, neck, and face account for about 10% of your body's surface area.

--It just FEELS like wearing a hat is really effective because your face is five times more sensitive to temperature changes than other parts of your body.

MYTH #5.) YOU SHOULDN'T EXERCISE WHEN YOU'RE SICK. The only way to get rid of a cold is to rest. But a little exercise can actually make you feel better.

--In a study from Ball State University, volunteers with bad colds were divided into two groups. The first group only rested, and the second group rested but also exercised for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

--In both groups, symptoms lasted for just over eight days on average. But the people who exercised felt better during the afternoons and evenings.

--Just don't overdo it. Intense workouts that last more than 90 minutes can weaken your immune system.

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