Gesundheit! Winter is great for bringing people together, whether it’s for the holidays, or hang out in a pub, or talk around a fireplace. Winter is also great for viruses, particularly the ones that cause the common cold. Here are five things you thought you knew about colds, or didn’t know (but should):
1. Antibiotics will help get over a cold faster. False. Colds are caused by viruses, so antibiotics don’t have any effect on them. And since antibiotics don’t generate your body’s immune reaction, they don’t make your body’s reaction against colds any better. In fact, overuse of antibiotics can encourage the growth of bacteria that resist drugs, which opens the door to much nastier, sometimes incurable, infections.
2. The mucus color tells you if you have a virus or a bacteria. False. When a cold virus begins its infection, the mucus running from your nose is clear. Then, white blood cells and other immune system components start fighting (and dying), turning the mucus yellow. Once your nasal passage’s normal bacteria start to grow back, your mucus turns green. So, a normal cold gets you all three colors!
3. The older you get, the fewer colds you’ll contract. Maybe. There are about 200 viruses that cause colds (they fall into the categories of rhinoviruses, adenoviruses and coxsackie viruses). It’s possible that your body’s immune system can detect and fight a virus it already has been exposed to, though there’s not much known about whether the body’s cellular immune system gets any better on a second strike.
4. You can get a cold from touching an infected doorknob or counter surface. True. There are two ways a virus can infect your respiratory system; either by breathing in the virus or touching it with your hand (and subsequently your nose or mouth). Wash your hands in winter!
5. Zinc and/or Vitamin C can prevent a cold. False, sort of. Neither zinc nor ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) can stop a cold virus from infecting you, but there’s some evidence that zinc can reduce the severity of a cold and help you recover faster. Vitamin C, on the other hand, shows very little effectiveness in changing the course of a cold. Meditation and moderate exercise may help reduce the length and severity of an infection, some recent research has shown.