It’s the third week of school, you wake up with an ache in your body, a sniffle in your nose, and a cough in your throat. Not. Good.
As a student on a large college campus, it is almost unavoidable to catch something when cold season comes around. Being knowledgeable about what is happening with your body is one of the best things you could do.
Many myths surround the common cold in the ways we try to prevent it, the ways we catch it and the ways we fight it.
Colds are not uniform. Many different viruses could be the cause of your sickness, and therefore there is no single treatment. The common cold must run its course, but you can at least make yourself a bit more comfortable for the ride.
Treatment depending on your symptoms:
-Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever and relieve muscle aches, but do not use aspirin.
-Over the counter cough and cold medicine.
-REMEMBER: Coughing is your body’s way of getting mucus out of your lungs, so use cough syrups only when your cough becomes too painful.
-Throat lozenges or sprays for your sore throat.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
What else to do:
Rest, drink lots of fluids, wash your hands and listen to your body.
The flu is a different matter.
“Flu is characterized by the quite sudden onset of feverishness, with a sore throat and nasal discharge, chills, headache, muscle aches and loss of appetite, usually with fever of 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Over the next few days, the general symptoms may improve but the local symptoms (sore throat, cough) get worse. In an uncomplicated case the patient will be much improved after five to seven days but may take up to two weeks or even longer to recover completely,” according to an article from Scientific American magazine.
MYTH: You can boost your immune system.
We see the detoxing teas, vitamin supplements and many other products claiming to “boost your immune system.” In general, this is a pseudoscience belief.
“The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function,” according to an article from Harvard Health Publications.
The immune system can be broadly split into two parts: the innate and the acquired response. The innate response is the buildup of phlegm, the fever, the aches and the fatigue. The acquired response is the actual fighting off of the virus. Our body can take from five to 10 days to even identify what virus to fight. Once identified, we create the specific antibodies to destroy the virus.
While you may not be able to improve or strengthen your immune system, you can help it function at its highest capacity. By maintaining good circulation through an active lifestyle and balanced diet, you allow your cells to be poised for anything to come.
What can you do for your immune system?
You are what you eat; the most cliché of phrases, but a valuable message. A healthy person consumes a balance of protein, carbs and fats, along with important micronutrients such as iron and zinc. Maintaining a balanced diet can do you no harm, but consuming sugary, processed or high-fat foods can.
“Scientists have long recognized that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases,” according to the Harvard Health Publications article. Our diet without a doubt affects our health and susceptibility to sickness. We must be aware of the amount and quality of food that we are consuming.
Amidst the flurry of school and work activities, it is important to find your Zen.
“Chronic stress produces a stress hormone called cortisol that kills or neutralises your immune cells,” said professor Janet Lord, an immunologist from the University of Birmingham, in an article by the Guardian.
Whether you do yoga, binge watch your favorite show or read a book to unwind, the state of your mental health is vital to ward off colds.
MYTH: Being out in the cold will get you sick.
Why is it that cold and flu season is universally during the colder months?
While it is difficult to scientifically test, “‘Dry and cold conditions are probably more high-risk situations for viruses because of dry mucosa,’ said Dr. Sorana Segal-Maurer, (chief of the Dr. James J. Rahal Jr. Division of Infectious Disease at New York Hospital Queens). The mucosa, she says, is what lines your trachea, the back of your throat and your sinuses. Viruses invade the mucosa and start growing, causing your cold,” according to an article from CNN.