There are more than 200 unique strains what we call the “common cold.” Although prevalent, the cold is not well understood by the public. Here, I will offer evidence as to why some of the conceptions about the disease may be faulty.
"Being cold or wet increases the chances of contracting a cold."
Yes, colds are more prevalent during colder seasons. However, while the common cold may be caused by the cooler weather itself, increased prevalence of the virus may also be due to an indirect effect of colder weather—herding people into warm, indoor environments. Because people want to avoid the cold and soggy weather, they are in close proximity to each other more often and for longer times, according to Medicinenet. Since the common cold is a virus, which is transmitted via hosts—humans—through direct contact or airborne droplets, then this explanation makes sense. Warm and dry rooms evaporate droplets more quickly and suspend them in the air, making them easier to inhale. Cold weather alone can't spawn cold viruses. Some argue that cold weather lowers immune function, and thus makes people more prone to disease. However, the amount of time spent in freezing weather that is required to noticeably lower immune function is very rarely met, says David Bellamy, a biologist of the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
"You can catch a cold from a flu shot."
Patients do sometimes show symptoms or catch a cold after receiving a flu shot. Although the shot could have induced the cold, patients may have caught the cold before the flu shot has taken effect, or the shot has already taken effect and the body is just bolstering its defenses. Symptoms like coughing and sneezing are defense mechanisms designed to rid the body of foreign entities, says a health article published in ABCnews. Further, it says that the flu shot is a mixture of viruses that have been killed and cannot usually infect patients. Why would hospitals administer the shot if it did? The inconvenience is that the immune system needs time to synthesize antibodies and specific T-cells (which attack the cold virus) so patients are still vulnerable for a time after receiving a flu shot, according to Dr. Neil Campbell, who taught at Cornell University. Moreover, symptoms are the body’s natural way of defending against diseases. Thus, the body, after being introduced to virus particles, responds by coughing or sneezing, as though trying to expel a real infection. Dr. Campbell wrote that the purpose of the flu shot is to introduce patients’ white blood cells to different kinds of viruses in circulation during the current cold seasons so they are prepared to fight when they actually encounter viruses. It’s like training how to box with a punching bag. There is usually no harm, and the immune system only gets stronger.
"Chicken soup and honey can help fight off a cold."
These are old practices which hold true. Chicken soup warms (and thus speeds up) the mucus running through the nose, which limits the time the cold virus is in contact with the nasal lining, thus reducing infection says David Bellamy, a biologist of the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. In addition, he says that drinking fluids dilutes the blood and the cold virus, which makes it harder for the virus to find and surround target cells. Honey helps fight off a cold because it is very hypertonic, which means it is very concentrated (it is very sweet). Therefore, when honey runs down the throat, water aggregates around it to dilute it, as is a physical tendency of water. Thus, honey dries out the cold virus, which likes moisture. Try this experiment at home: leave a jar of honey out in the open for a week in warm weather. You will notice that it does not go bad. Most other organic foods containing liquids would spoil, but not honey. All organisms need water, and if bacteria and microorganisms touched honey, the little amount of water they contain would have a tendency to leave their bodies due to osmosis to dilute the honey, wrote Dr. Campbell in Biology. Thus, the microorganisms dry out and die.
"Putting on extra clothing or covering can help 'sweat out' a cold"
Staying warm helps with recovery. Although sweating could be responsible, staying warm and well rested may help as well. It is known that the immune system works best at a slightly warmer temperature than 37 degrees, says David Bellamy. Purposely heating yourself up to the point of sweating is counterproductive, however, because sweating is a mechanism designed to alleviate high body temperature through the evaporation of water on your skin. On the other hand, being warm and well rested leaves the body more energy and resources to fight off infections. David Bellamy notes that the sauna room, however, does open up the breathing pathway, which helps with a more comfortable recovery and night's rest.