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Starve a fever, feed a cold. Voila! You're cured of your seasonal ailments, right? Well, not exactly. For this edition of Medicine or Malarkey, we’ll explore the validity behind several home remedies, old wives' tales, and conventional wisdom about contracting and treating cold and flu-related illnesses during the winter months.
You've likely heard that if you have cold symptoms and the color of your mucus starts to turn yellow or green, you have something worse (maybe a bacterial or viral infection) that requires antibiotics. However, this is not always the case, as your mucus may thicken and turn green due to an increased presence of white blood cells, which contain a green-colored enzyme. It's all part of your body's natural response. The viral infections that often produce excess mucus will generally clear themselves up, though it may take a couple weeks and a little help from your local CareSpot. As your cold or flu-like symptoms dissipate, so will the increased phlegm production.
This old adage dates back to the Middle Ages, and there's no reason to believe this method has mystical healing powers. To date, there is very little scientific research supporting this claim. Your body needs nutrients to fuel an immune response, so starving yourself actually isn’t the best idea. If you have a flu, fever, or cold, eating nutritious and well-balanced meals, getting plenty of rest, and staying hydrated is your best dietary approach.
It's not going to cure your cold (as the common cold has no cure), and there aren't many scientific studies on its healing powers, but chicken soup can act as an anti-inflammatory and provide temporary relief from congestion. It also hydrates and increases air flow. It certainly won't hurt, and it may help you to feel better psychologically by remembering those who took care of you as a wee sick child.
Hold on a second before you start chugging the carton of orange juice or taking a large amount of supplements when you first get the sniffles. Though much research has been done on the subject, there's no scientific consensus on the effectiveness of preventing and treating colds with vitamin C. Some studies suggest that vitamin C supplements might help shorten the duration of the cold, but it won't prevent it from happening or make it disappear. Also, your body can only absorb so much of it, and you might experience diarrhea, flatulence, cramps, or nausea if you go overboard with the vitamin C (more than 1,000 mg/day).
Cold-causing viruses can live on surfaces for hours, which means germs can potentially reside anywhere you place your hand, from doorknobs, elevator buttons, keyboards, sinks, etc. Regularly washing your hands with soap for 15-20 seconds at a time, and about 4-5 times per day, can go a long way in preventing or limiting the spread of the cold or flu viruses. For the health of others, consider sneezing into your sleeve or a tissue instead of your hands, which will come into contact with surfaces or people.
Remember you can help prevent the flu with a flu vaccine at CareSpot – extended hours 7 days a week make it easy to fit into hectic schedules for families, students, as well as working singles and parents. If feel like your cold or flu symptoms are progressing into something more serious, stop by CareSpot to see if it warrants further treatment or a referral to a specialist before it gets too out of hand.