The common cold is one of the most prevalent illnesses on earth, but there’s still a lot we don’t understand about it—especially when it comes to its causes. Because of this lack of information, several popular myths about the condition have emerged. While believing in one or more of these myths is not necessarily dangerous, they definitely won’t do anything to make your time with a cold shorter or more bearable. Here's a look at some of the more common myths and where the logic behind them goes wrong.
"Getting chilly and wet can cause a cold."
If you were a kid who enjoyed playing in the rain, you’re probably already familiar with the typical parental response of, “Come inside before you catch a cold!” While that advice is no doubt well-intentioned, there’s not evidence to support it. The common cold is a virus, and like all viruses, it’s caused because of the transfer of germs—not because you’re chilly and soaked to the bone. It’s true that germs tend to thrive during the cooler months, but you’re still much more likely to catch the virus inside than outside.
“Feed a cold, starve a fever.”
This myth is so popular it’s got its own saying! However, that doesn’t make it any truer. For one, it’s possible to both have a cold and a fever simultaneously, which makes this folk wisdom difficult to follow. Secondly, there’s no research to indicate that eating more than usual can help reduce cold symptoms. From a placebo standpoint, eating lots of tasty food may improve your mood, but it won’t do anything for your physical condition.
"Only people with a fever are contagious."
With some diseases, you’re only contagious when you’re running a fever. However, this isn’t the case with the common cold. Regardless of your body temperature, you’re most likely to transfer the virus to others during the first three days of your illness. In fact, not everyone who develops a cold will even have a fever, making it an unreliable indicator for the condition.
"The common cold can 'morph' into the flu."
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the common cold and the flu, since their symptoms can be so similar. Regardless of this difficulty, the cold cannot magically “morph” into the flu—these conditions are caused by two very different viruses. It’s true that, like living organisms, viruses possess the ability to evolve, but don’t expect to see any making such a drastic and identifiable jump.
"Antibiotics are a good way to treat the common cold."
Antibiotics are great for treating illnesses that stem from bacteria, but unfortunately, most cases of the cold are viral in nature. Taking antibiotics to fight a cold is not only ineffective, it can be downright dangerous in the long run. The more we unnecessarily rely on antibiotics, the more the bacteria in our bodies build up a resistance to them, which means that they become increasingly harder to treat.