The truth about colds and flu

iStock_000015436530SmallThe dreary month of February unfortunately means flu season is at its peak. But what you do you really know about the common cold and how to cure it? Professor Alyn Morice, Head of Cardiorespiratory Studies at Hull York Medical School and Professor Ron Eccles from the Common Cold Centre bust some of the myths surrounding coughs, colds and flu.

If someone sneezes on you, you’re definitely going to get sick


Professor Eccles says, “Colds are actually more difficult to contract than people believe. Cold sufferers are at their most contagious for up to three days before exhibiting any symptoms, so by the time they are feeling unwell, the chances are their illness has already reduced. In fact, to catch a cold, close and prolonged contact to the virus is required, which is why most colds are spread at home.

Men get more sick than women


Women do get more colds than men, but according to Professor Eccles, “This is probably due to increased interaction with children.” People who spend a lot of time with children, such as childminders, nursery teachers or school teachers, are more likely to pick up the viruses, regardless of their gender.

Cough syrups don’t work


Although there is limited research suggesting cough medicines have an impact on cold and flu symptoms, Professor Morice says, “I have demonstrated that different active ingredients used in many popular cough syrups, such as dextromethorphan, have an effect on the body, by impacting on the nerves and coating the throat. This significantly reduces the sensitivity of the cough reflex.”

You can’t take cough medication if you’re diabetic


If you are diabetic, then fear no more. Unlike years ago, pharmacies now stock cough medicines containing no sugar – so you no longer have to struggle to control those dreaded symptoms with no medication. Professor Morice says, “Remedies from trusted brands offer sugar-free or alcohol-free alternatives, which allow effective relief without compromise.”

Some people never get a runny nose or a cough


To those lucky people who ‘never catch a cold’ – think again! “When colds are circulating many people who are mildly infected show no symptoms. So people who say they never have a cold may simply have an immune system that doesn’t respond strongly to the cold virus,” says Professor Eccles.

Going out with wet hair will give you a cold


Despite what your mum or grandma used to say, going out with wet hair doesn’t mean you’re going to ‘catch your death’. Professor Eccles explains, “Getting cold or wet won’t give you a cold, however if you’re already carrying the virus in your nose, it might allow symptoms to develop at a faster pace.”

A spicy curry will get rid of a cold or cough


It’s true what they say, eating a spicy curry can actually help to alleviate cold and flu symptoms. Capsicums – or bell peppers as they are known – are a great natural remedy for a cold. Professor Eccles says, “Look for lozenges with a strong taste and ingredients such as menthol and capsicum – this will promote salivation that helps to coat and soothe a sore throat.”

Curing a cough is so expensive – you have to buy lots of remedies


There’s no need to buy out the whole pharmacy when a cold virus strikes. A simple cough syrup will do the trick. Professor Morice says, “A syrup is the most suitable basic formulation for coughs as it has a demulcent effect, working to coat the throat, reduce the irritation and soothe the cough reflex.” Look out for medicines with strong flavours that will work to counteract the irritation.








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