When it comes to staying healthy in the winter, many of us grew up listening to our well-intentioned parents recite adages like ‘Feed a fever; starve a cold,’ or ‘Drink hot fluids to soothe a sore throat.’ In fact, you may find yourself passing these pearls of wisdom on to your own kids. But are they true? Learn what the experts say to help you separate fact from fiction.
You lose most of your body heat through your head
Myth. In an article published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at the Centre for Health Policy at Indiana University in Indianapolis argue that if this claim were true, people would be just as cold if they went without a hat as they would without trousers. “Patently, this is just not the case,” they write. Dr. Bruce Minnes, staff physician at the Hospital for Sick Children agrees: “A child won’t get hypothermic solely because they went out without a hat on.” He adds that the larger risk is frost-bite especially where the skin is more at risk – nose, ears, fingers or toes. This is why it’s important to dress appropriately for the cold.
Chicken soup helps a cold
The flu shot will make your child sick
Myth. Flu shots are made from dead (inactivated) viruses. It is impossible to catch the flu from a dead virus. Vaccines do not cause infection, but they do trigger an immune response. As a result, potential side effects include “flu-like” symptoms, such as mild fever, aches, and soreness. But these are temporary. They are a reaction to the shot, not a sign of infection. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the flu shot for adults and kids older than 6 months. This includes both healthy people and those with chronic medical conditions.
Feed a fever; starve a cold
Myth. Most health experts agree that this old adage is more fiction than fact. Feeding and hydrating the body with nutrients and fluids during any illness is actually beneficial. It replenishes nutrient and energy stores, giving the body more energy to fight an illness. Healthy foods like vegetables, fruit, and warm broths. However, it is important to follow your child’s cues. Do not force feed a child who is not hungry. Most children with a fever will likely have lost their appetite, but if they feel hungry they should eat. Offer small amounts frequently throughout the day. “Slow and steady will get your child through the illness,” says Dr. Minnes.
You can treat a cold with antibiotics
Myth. If you believe this, you’re not alone. In a study that looked at parent perceptions of colds, about two-thrids of the almost 200 parents asked believed that bacteria cause colds. Not surprisingly, many parents also believed that antibiotics are needed to treat a colds. In reality, colds are caused by viruses and antibiotics do not fight viral infections. Overusing antibiotics encourages antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow. The body’s immune and defense system will fight most viral infections. The best advice on helping your child get through a cold? ”Focus on maintaining comfort, nutrition, and hydration,” says Dr. Minnes.
The temperature of the fluid you drink during a cold matters
Myth. Some people believe that if you have a sore throat you should not drink anything cold. Others think you should not drink anything warm or hot. In fact, the temperature of fluids likely has little local effect on an infection. Once the fluid is swallowed, it quickly becomes the same temperature as the body. “It really makes little, if any, difference – it’s more about what makes you feel better, improves comfort, and is easiest to swallow,” says Dr. Minnes.
Thank you to AboutKidsHealth.ca