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Myths and realities of winter

Myths and realities of winter

Myth: Wear a hat. You lose most of your body heat through your head.

Reality: Do keep your head covered. Technically, you don’t lose more body heat through your head (about 10 percent, proportional to the body surface area), but it may feel that way. Your face is about five times more sensitive to temperature than other areas. It’s an early-warning system to put on a sweater or turn of the thermostat long before your core body temperature gets too cold.

Myth: You’ll get sick if you go out in the cold with wet hair.

Reality: Exposure to viruses – not skipping the blow dryer – causes colds and flu. Scientists put cold viruses in the noses of two groups of people. One was then exposed to cold/wet conditions. People who were chilled were no more likely to get sick than those who weren’t. Cold weather dilates blood vessels, which can make your nose run, but it doesn’t make you more susceptible to viruses.

Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever. 

Reality: This is half right. When you’re congested, nutritious food fortifies your immune system. But if you’re feverish, your metabolism is revved up and you need more energy, not fewer calories, to fight off the infection. Bottom line: stay hydrated and eat well, no matter what your symptoms.

Myth: Avoid dairy when you have a cold.

Reality: There’s no medical basis to skip dairy when you’re sick. Many people believe that dairy products increase mucus production. However, research shows this may be a placebo effect. In one study, people who knew they were drinking cow’s milk reported more nasal symptoms than those who had soy milk, but people who didn’t know which milk they were drinking reported the same (minimal) effects.

Myth: Have some chicken soup when you’re sick.

Reality: There’s something to this age-old comfort food remedy. Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that chicken soup prepared with lots of veggies mitigates some of the inflammation responsible for cold symptoms, like a runny nose and congestion. To get rid of common cold symptoms, you have to get rid of the inflammation that’s causing them.