Every parent has heard that cold weather can cause colds. Now for the truth on that old wives’ tale! “If you are out without adequate hats and gloves it makes your immune system not work as well then you are more susceptible to an infection, but being out in the cold itself does not directly cause colds,” said Dr. Dave Serlin of UM Family Medicine. “The main ways to keep your immune system healthy to fight off infections or to reduce the likelihood of infection, are to get plenty of sleep and eat a well-balanced diet,” said Serlin. “Taking giant doses of vitamin C or echinacea does not prevent or treat colds; the only medicine shown to have some promise in getting rid of a cold faster is zinc, like lozenges with zinc defense or multivitamins with zinc,” said Serlin.
For prevention, focus on handwashing and killing the virus so it does not get into your body. Cover when you cough or sneeze and use a hand sanitizer for greater convenience. If you already have a cold, are not feeling well, are feeling tired, run down or have a fever, treat it symptomatically. “If you have aches and pains, you can use Tylenol, anti-inflammatories or over-the-counter cough and cold medicines —unless your kid is under 4 years-old,” said Serlin. With the little ones it may not be safe or effective, and errors in dosing can be harmful.
If you treat the symptoms and get your rest, you can usually recover from a cold within 7 to 10 days. “If you have dangerous symptoms like difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, persistent fever or are not responding to over-the-counter medications, those would be reasons to contact your doctor,” Serlin added.