There are many ways you can keep warm and healthy when the temperature drops. A good start? Don’t believe the hype around these common misconceptions disguised as wisdom.
We asked Dr. Genevieve Brauning, a family medicine physician at Novant Health South Park Family Physicians to separate fact from fiction.
Myth 1: Drinking alcohol can keep you warm in the winter
Just one alcoholic drink can make you feel as if you’re warmer, but it actually lowers your core body temperature and increases your risk of hypothermia. That’s because drinking alcohol reverses the normal process and reflexes that control our body temperature. You also don’t shiver as much when you’re drinking, which doesn’t help because shivering is one way that the body tries to create warmth.
Myth 2: The flu shot will give you the flu
The flu shot cannot give you the flu, but anytime you have a vaccine you could potentially feel a little under the weather. The vaccine is designed to get your body to produce a normal immune reaction, so sometimes you might feel slightly achy or feverish but that doesn’t mean you actually have the flu. The flu can be serious, so don’t wait to get your shot.
Myth 3: Cold weather can make you sick
A lot of people may have grown up with the advice that either not bundling up properly or walking out the door with wet hair can cause a cold. Not true.
It’s the viruses that you’re exposed to that make you sick. But it may be harder for you to fight off some viruses when you’re cold. For instance, when your nose is cold it may be easier for some common cold viruses to replicate in your nasal area. So bundling up, staying warm and keeping your head and neck protected may help your body’s natural defenses against infection.
Myth 4: Chicken soup of all kinds will cure your cold
Although there have been a handful of studies that looked at how chicken soup does help reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms, it’s unclear which ingredients in the soup make it effective against colds. Given that not every chicken soup is made the same way, it’s hard to say with 100 percent certainty that every bowl of chicken soup will help you recover. But staying hydrated and eating nutritious foods always helps. Also, there’s evidence that hot liquids such as soups and teas could thin mucus and soothe a sore throat. So even if soup doesn’t cure you, it will probably help you feel a little less crummy.
Myth 5: You shouldn’t exercise when you have a cold
The first thing to do before exercising when you have a cold is to listen to your body. Generally, it is safe to exercise when you have mild symptoms. However, if you have conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or poor blood circulation, keep a careful eye out before exercising with a cold. You should certainly check with your provider first, if you have doubt.
Myth 6: You should take antibiotics when your mucus is green
A lot of people ask their providers for antibiotics when they blow their nose and see green or yellow. Having colored mucus does typically mean that you’re fighting off an infection, but you can’t rely on the color of your mucus to tell if you have a viral or bacterial sinus infection. Each case is different so don’t expect to get antibiotics just because your mucus is not the color you’re used to.