Mythbusters: 4 Myths and 1 Truth about the Common Cold

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someonePrint this page

Mythbusters: 4 Myths and 1 Truth about the Common Cold


It’s cold and flu season, which might mean you or your children have been battling some sort of sickness over the last few months. But did you know there are several common cold myths that are often passed off as fact? How do you know the difference between what’s true and what’s anecdotally shared from generation to generation?

Well here’s your mythbusting guide to the common cold!

1) Myth: Children catch colds from sleeping with wet hair, or not wearing hats or socks in winter.

This is FALSE. The common cold is caused by an infectious pathogen, or germ. While the common cold tends to thrive and spread more commonly in winter, it cannot be contracted simply by a child being cold. There has to be transmission of this germs from one child to another through either direct contact with a sick child’s respiratory secretions, or indirect contact with an object that a sick child has touched.

2) Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.

This is FALSE. Good nutrition and hydration are important during any illness, regardless of the symptoms. However, I usually reassure parents who are concerned that their child’s appetite is decreased when they are sick. Most children who do not have other underlying chronic diseases are going to do just fine with a decreased appetite for a few days. It is most important that they try to drink clear fluids to maintain hydration. This will help minimize fever and thin secretions, allowing for them to feel better in general.

3) Myth: Green mucus indicates that an infection is bacterial.

This is FALSE. Green mucus is simply colored because white blood cells are present. These cells serve an important function for fighting off all types of infectious pathogens by “digesting” them. The green color is simply a by-product of this process.

4) Myth: Cough and cold medicines can shorten or prevent the common cold.

This is FALSE. There are countless medications available over the counter to treat the symptoms of the common cold. Many of these medications contain multiple drugs that are not approved for use in children under the age of four. Additionally, most have never been scientifically proven to be effective in relieving the symptoms they are meant to treat, and should never be used to prevent a cold. The best defense against contracting the common cold is with good infection control practices, such as washing hands.

5) Not a Myth: The common cold is caused by a virus.

This is TRUE. There are millions of distinct viruses that can cause the common cold. This is why it has been so difficult to develop a vaccine to prevent it. It is also the reason why a child can catch eight to 10 different colds in one winter season, seemingly never recovering from one before another one strikes. It is important to note that antibiotics are ineffective against the common cold because it is a viral illness.

Parents should rest assured that their child’s immune system is usually quite capable of handling the common cold on its own.

However, in the event that the child displays prolonged fever symptoms (greater than 48-72 hours), difficulty breathing/blue skin color, or symptoms lasting longer than 10 days, parents should not hesitate to seek the assistance of a pediatrician.

About Dr. Ferrell

Dr. Ferrell is a pediatrician at Pediatrics at O’Donovan at 5131 O’Donovan Dr., Suite 301 in Baton Rouge. She provides diagnoses and treatment for children of all ages, from newborns to adolescents. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Ferrell, call (225) 490-0393.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someonePrint this page