6 Myths and Truths About Colds—What to Believe and What Your Moms Made Up

Although not well understood, cold season always comes like clockwork in the fall. (It is thought that this is caused by increased close contact resulting from the colder weather).

Now, everybody knows that there are some old wives tales that have been circulating since, well, who knows when. And we’re here to give you the truth about what makes you sick.

You can catch a cold by walking outside with wet hair.
MYTH. Although our moms and dads love to warn us of the perils of wandering outdoors with wet hair, Dr. Beth Ricananti states that you acquire a cold by coming into contact with one of over 200 viruses. When someone sick touches an object, such as a doorknob, and you mindlessly touch your eyes, nose or mouth you’ll likely be subject to a cold virus. But as far as going outside with wet hair in the cold (or drastic temperature changes in weather)? You’re golden.

Chicken soup is good for a cold.
TRUE. Surprised? So were we. This quaint concept actually rings true. Chicken soup can calm inflammatory responses caused by viral infections, help clear nasal passages and help your immune system function. Opt for homemade when possible, as it’s generally more healthful.

Stress increases your chances of getting a cold.
TRUE. Stress causes an increase in cortisol levels which decreases your immune function. Search for ways to remain de-stressed this winter, whether that’s regular workouts, yoga classes, hot baths or time with your close friends. And remember to get plenty of sleep and always eat breakfast.

Washing your hands is the best way to avoid getting sick.
TRUE. Soap and water. That’s still your best ammunition against colds. (And it’s so simple, so why not do it often?) Be sure to wash those paws after you’ve touched doorknobs, shook hands or been around someone with a cold. And remember, people with colds are contagious during the first four days of symptoms, says Dr. James Nicolai.

Feed a cold and starve a fever.
MYTH. Maintaining hydration and some fuel in your system is a good idea when you’re sick, says Dr. Ricanati. While you may not have the appetite for a five-course meal, be sure to eat when food sounds good (and reach for vitamin filled fruits and veggies such as kiwis, kale, broccoli, strawberries, or red peppers).

Honey helps a sore throat.
TRUE. While this sounds like a myth made up by kids looking to avoid taking that nasty cherry cough syrup, studies done by JAMA Pediatrics have shown that honey can actually be more effective at suppressing coughs in children than OTC honey-flavored cough suppressants. They believe the explanation may lie in the fact that honey is full of antioxidants, which helps sooth irritated mucous membranes and triggers coughing fits. So rather than purchasing that unnaturally red cough syrup, try the more natural method of a tablespoon of honey.