No way around it now: The cold and flu season is indeed upon us, and that sucks ... a lot. But hey, at least we all know what we have to do to keep from getting sick -- and how to get well if we do fall under the weather, right?? Or ... wrong? Turns out lots of the cold and flu remedies we all rely on every winter might be doing more harm than good -- or, at the very least, not enough good. Perfect example: Most of us pop ibuprofen to tame everything from sinus headaches to aches and pains -- we even give the over-the-counter med to our kids. But according to a recent study, 50 to 70 percent of people with respiratory tract infections (including colds, sore throats and chest and ear infections) who took ibuprofen ended up back at the doctor within a month, feeling even worse.
Why? Researchers think it may have something to do with the fact that ibuprofen reduces inflammation and "an inflammatory response is part of the body's immune response to the infection." Sheesh, who saw that one coming??
And that's not the only go-to method of getting better that might not be working as well as you think. Here are 5 more cold & flu myths, busted:
1. Echincacea helps to shorten the duration of a cold.
Sure, some people swear by the stuff -- but the evidence to support its efficacy is mainly anecdotal.
2. Not going outside in the cold with a wet head will prevent you from getting a cold.
Nope, not true -- you can't actually "catch a chill," according to experts. There are, however, more viruses circulating during the winter months -- so this belief is based on coincidence rather than hard evidence.
3. Zinc boosts your immune system.
As with echinacea, there's no scientific proof to back this theory up (though it probably can't hurt).
4. It's possible to "sweat out" a cold or flu.
Again, this falls into the category of folklore. If, however, piling on blankets or drinking hot tea helps you feel better, go for it!
5. Feed a cold/starve a fever (or starve a cold, feed a fever).
Yet another old wives' tale, neither stuffing your face or dieting will make you better. You SHOULD, however, drink more fluids when sick.
I don't know about you, but I still don't like going out with a wet head during the winter -- think I'll stick with that particular old wives' tale!
Were you surprised to learn about any of these cold & flu myths?
Image via superhua/Flickr