It's that time of the year again: our dear old friend, the Rhinovirus (aka, the common cold), is running rampant across campuses all around. With exams, assignments, and just generally a whole lot of academic stress looming over their heads, people are chancing it with as many cold remedies as they can find.
Don't be fooled by every remedy floating around the web though, because a lot of these may be misinformed. Here are a list of common myths surrounding alleged remedies to your cold.
1. Milk causes more mucus
Ever been told by a well-meaning relative that you should avoid drinking milk when you're sick to avoid a wet cough? Well, the idea that milk causes more mucus/phlegm production is actually false.
So no, when you're hacking up a blob of phlegm, it really isn't due to that glass of milk you had an hour ago.
2. Vitamin C as a cure
This one is a bit of a grey area in the scientific community. There has been controversy in regards to the effects of vitamin C on colds, but the general consensus is that while its effects are questionable once the onset of the cold has occurred, it may help with shortening the duration of colds.
That means to say, when ol' granny insists you eat oranges, maybe go ahead and do it—there's no harm in it anyway. However, if she says to drink a lot of orange juice, then I urge you to read on.
3. Drink orange juice
Sure, orange juice logically comes from oranges, and therefore contains vitamin C, right? You may be wrong on that account.
The usual brands of orange juice essentially are a sugar concoction and studies have shown that sugar may inhibit absorption of vitamin C in the tubular epithelial cells. Okay, sure, but what does that mean to you? I'll tell you, as a sort of Science-y major.
Tubular epithelial cells are a part of the kidney that's essentially where solutes—vitamin C in this case—are reabsorbed into the blood stream. Therefore, if sugar inhibits this reabsorption, we are losing more vitamin C to our urine.
So sure, orange juice contains vitamin C, but it doesn't necessarily benefit you all that much—and may even have adverse effects.
4. Feed the cold, starve the fever
This is a common Old Wives' Tale. My first thought is, why would anything deprive themselves of food as a crazy home cure for a fever? You're already feeling like death warmed over, no need to make things worse for yourself.
It turns out your body has an immune response to both fed and starved states, just different types of signaling molecules for our immune system. One is responsible for viruses/bacteria that have already penetrated the cell while the other is for activity against pre-penetration.
So what is the takeaway? Probably something along the lines of do whatever the hell you want, because it's easier to take fever medication than starve yourself.
5. Take antibiotics for colds
This one is not food-related, but I want to address this: there's no use taking antibiotics, because colds and flus are caused by viruses, namely the rhinovirus I introduced in the beginning. Antibiotics, as its name suggests, work against bacteria.
I hope this proved to be at least a little informative, so next time someone chides you about encouraging your mucus production by drinking milk, you can politely inform them that they are hella wrong.