Winter Health Myths You Should Know About

by Jodi Shaw
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There are endless winter health myths that we have heard from well-intention grandparents and parents. They have become so ingrained in us that we take them as cold hard facts. Everyone wants to stay as healthy as possible during the frosty months, but in order to do so sensibly, I discovered some myths from Board Certified NYC internist and gastroenterology Dr. Niket Sonpal that questions what do we really know about staying healthy?

I’m just getting over the flu. Actually, everyone in my house has been sick over the past week. Runny noses, coughing, restless sleeps and body aches from hell. Not fun.

I really hate being sick. When it comes to staying healthy, I do try to keep myself as germ free as possible. Yet, each year some kind of nasty cold comes out of nowhere. It’s hard to know what to believe.

If I wash my hands regularly, am I safe from catching a cold?

If I drink orange juice for the vitamin c, or take multi-vitamins, I won’t get sick right?

Which cold questions and answers are myths and which are true. I don’t know. So, let’s take a look at just a few of these questions people ask on a daily basis.


washing hands

Myth: I wash my hands all the time using sanitizer, so I won’t get sick, right?

Now they say hand sanitizer will kill most viruses, but not all. I personally don’t use sanitizer but soap and water only. I wash my hands, let them dry completely. I do this because things like the norovirus, which causes vomiting is not killed by hand sanitizer.

→ Soap and water are the best way to get rid of all bacteria and viruses.

Myth: Allergies go away in the winter

Stuffy nose, scratchy throat, it’s that time of year, right? However, allergies might be the cause of your cold symptoms. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, one in five people suffer from indoor/outdoor allergies, which can become worse in the winter.

→ One tip is that if your symptoms linger for longer than 12 days, it might be time to visit your doctor.

Myth: Drinking alcohol will keep me warm in the winter.

We all know that having a shot of whisky warms the belly. However, drinking to stay warm is very toxic for your body. When you drink the blood vessels grow larger and the vessels become dilated. When this happens, the blood flows away from your internal organs.

→ It may feel better to drink because you feel it is keeping you warmed up. It is not.

Myth: I don’t need sunscreen in the winter. 

No matter what season it is, the sun’s rays are just as strong in the winter as they are the summer. Snow and ice can reflect even more sunlight and up to twice as much than in the summertime.

→ Make sure you use SPF 30 sunscreen and it put it on regardless of the temperature outdoors. Also don’t forget your sunglasses to help protect your eyes, too!

Myth: The Flu Shot Gives You the Flu

Did you know that most people view the flu as a serious threat to their health? So they should. Yet, half of the population do not intend to get the flu shot this year because they believe the vaccine can give them the flu.

→ The Department of Disease Control recommends the flu shot for anyone older than 6 months of age. The flu shot does not contain a live virus but rather dead flu cells, making it impossible to catch the flu.

Myth: Chicken Soup Will Cure Colds

We are taught that drinking warm liquids like hot chocolate, tea, and apple cider or soups when we are sick can help us. This is true. Something like, chicken soup can help soothe and ease your congestion, not to mention it is easy on the tummy.

→ But chicken soup alone will not automatically cure your cold. Only rest and taking care of yourself can do that.

Myth: Being Cold Gives You a Cold

It’s a complete myth that being cold can give you a cold. In fact, being outdoors in the cold air does not automatically make you sick. One study discovered that healthy men who spend several hours in the temperature just above freezing have an increase in healthy virus-fighting activity in their immune system. I can testify to this since my son is a carpenter and spends a great deal of time outside working in the cold temperatures.

→ You are more likely to get sick from pre-school aged children or passing germs inside your home.

Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever

Dr. Sonpal says that, “This is another myth that comes from a time when people didn’t understand the science of body chemistry. The thought was that if you had a cold, food would warm you up. Conversely, if you had a high fever, not eating would cool you down. This is just patently bad medical advice. In both cases, good nutrition gives your body the fuel it needs to fight infections and recover from an illness.

When you have a fever, your body is burning energy at a rapid rate, and that needs to be replenished. So, by all means feed your cold; but also feed your fever, or any other illness. Even if you have stomach issues, find a way to take in lost fluids and electrolytes.”

What cold myths are you aware of?

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