Fact or fiction: Myths behind common cold


By Haley Beets


As winter approaches, so does the threat of coming down with a cold or flu. In a college setting, a case of the sniffles can spread easily and evolve into a crippling sickness in close living and

Donene Rowe
Donene Rowe

classroom conditions.

Dr. Donene Rowe has seen many cold and flu cases in her 10 years as a physician at UW-Whitewater’s Ambrose Health Center. She said the best way to deal with these common illnesses is to treat the symptoms early. Even though the symptoms may vary, most cold and flu symptoms can be relieved with over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol or Ibuprofen.

“The big thing is to try not to pass it on to other people around them,” Rowe said. “Encourage them that staying home and resting is better than trying to make it to class.”

Many UW-Whitewater students said they followed Rowe’s advice of resting when they started to feel sick.

“I try to get sleep and to drink a lot of fluid, and I try to work out indoors instead of outside,” freshman Melissa Buss said. “I have vitamins, so I usually take vitamins and hope that it won’t get any worse.”

While rest and fluids are the most important part of treating colds and flus, Rowe said the most important part to prevention is hand-washing.

“One of the things that we like people to be aware of is that this is something that is transmitted by droplets,” Rowe said. “If you have a cough, you spray those droplets. You get saliva or tears or

Melissa Buss
Melissa Buss

nasal discharge on your hands by touching your face.”

Hand-washing is a proven way to prevent colds, but the same can’t be said for some advice on the Internet. Here is a quick guide on common myths on the cold and flu.

Stress increases your chances of getting sick: Maybe

Rowe said there is some thought that stress decreases immune system response, making the body susceptible to sickness. She also said during stressful times, a lack of sleep or proper nutrition contributes to sickness.

Hot drinks and soups make you feel better: True

Rowe said drinks and soups give the body the fluid it requires to combat dehydration.

Senior Jessica Clapper said hot drinks help soothe her during cold and flu season.

“I take vitamin C as well as tea, honey and lemon juice,” Clapper said.

You can shorten the length of your cold or flu: False

Rowe said people try to shorten the length of their illness with Echinacea, zinc, and vitamins. She said the virus is “more responsive to getting kicked out by your immune system.”

The changing seasons bring on sickness: False

Rowe said cold symptoms can be caused by a whole host of different viruses, but if it’s truly a cold, then it’s not due to weather.

You shouldn’t work out when you’re sick: False

“If you’re already feeling dizzy and lightheaded and sick to your stomach, working out is probably not a good thing. Working out will further dehydrate you, and if you’re already feeling dizzy, it may add to that,” Rowe said.

Rowe said if the symptoms are mild, working out isn’t a bad thing. She said it’s important to wipe down the equipment since viruses are spread by droplets.