Curious Cold Myths that We Sometimes Still Hear

In a way, it is amazing that with the amount of knowledge that is currently available, people still cling to old myths. In some cases, the truth is substantially more helpful. That includes myths regarding the common cold.

Going from indoors to outdoors

When I was a child, I remember very well that my mother would tell my siblings and myself to bundle up before going from the warm house into the cold air outside in the wintertime, so we wouldn’t “catch a cold”. Actually, the truth is that there are cold viruses almost everywhere and you don’t “catch” a cold from going from a cold place to a warm one or from a warm place to a cold one.

However, each time a person moves back and forth between a hot area and a cold one, their body must adjust to the change in temperature. The greater the change in temperature, the longer it takes for the adjustment. If the body isn’t allowed the time it needs to adjust, the immune system resistance lowers. So a person doesn’t “catch a cold” from going from a warm home to the cold temperatures outside, but rather, their resistance to the cold viruses lowers so the cold can take hold.

It works both ways, too. People who go from the outside when the temperatures are high into an air-conditioned building can also have a lowering of resistance and are more prone to catching a cold.

Is it a cold?

People have a tendency to think that if they have a scratchy or a sore throat, coughing, sneezing illness, it must be a cold. This is a myth. Many other illnesses can cause the same symptoms. For instance, both the flu and some allergies can cause those symptoms. There are some much more serious illnesses that often have those same initial symptoms, too, such as illnesses borne by ticks. It is never safe to assume that if you have those symptoms, you “just” have a common cold.

In fact, a person can have a cold and can be helping to transmit it to others, without ever knowing that they have a cold. There might be no noticeable symptoms or what symptoms there are can be very mild.

Cure for a common cold

There are people who still wish that medical science would come up with a cure for a common cold. This is exceptionally unlikely, but not for the reasons people usually think of. “Common cold” is a catch-all phrase rather than a precise one. There are so many different viruses that can cause various cold-like symptoms that in order to ‘cure’ the common cold, each one of them would need to be cured. There is also the point that no virus has ever been cured. Many have been controlled to some degree and treatments have been devised to lessen the severity of the virus-caused illness, but this isn’t the same thing as curing the virus. 

As an example, there are still instances of people contracting polio, though the virus has been controlled for decades.

Chicken soup cures a cold

This is a myth, but at least it has a kernel of truth. Drinking chicken broth or eating chicken soup doesn’t actually get a person over the cold any faster than anything else. It certainly doesn’t cure a cold. However, the fats in broth and soup can soothe a sore or irritated throat while boosting the energy level the body needs to fight the virus. In other words, it makes you feel better and lessens the severity of the cold.

The autumn is rapidly approaching and this is widely thought of as the beginning of cold and flu season. People don’t need to believe in the myths about colds in order to withstand the illnesses. The knowledge is available. We just need to use it.


What do you think?


Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. A great explanation. The change in seasons usually gets me. Sneezing is the worst. I love the fall but changing seasons can be hard. I am sort of used to it now and know it’s coming. The cooler weather makes it worth it.

    • I usually get the whole sneezing, headache, runny eyes sort of thing this time of year. Only, I know what it is. It is a seasonal allergy…to forest fire smoke. Even when we have no nearby fires, we get smoke from fires that might be a hundred or more miles away. Before it gets heavy enough for me to smell the smoke, my eyes start watering, I start sneezing, and my sinuses block up, leading to headaches. If it gets really bad, I take an Allegra and that usually helps, but I don’t like taking meds if I can help it.

    • I used to take ginseng and echinacea for the same reason. Now, I’m more apt to simply increase my vitamin C intake during cold season or when I know that I’m going to be around crowds, which could increase my chances of getting a cold.

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