The Cold Facts

Does echinacea stave off sniffles? Will chicken soup cure that cold? Here are the myths and facts about cold and flu remedies.
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Was It Something You Ate?

Holidays can be hazardous to your health. The parties, crowded malls, and family gatherings mean exposure to lots of people and, unfortunately, lots of germs. Scientists have yet to find a magic potion that fully protects against those stubborn viruses that cause so much misery. But there are things you can do to help fend off a cold or the flu and alleviate symptoms should you get sick. Here, LHJ separates fact from fiction to help you get through the season:

Myth: Vitamin C

A handful of vitamin C tablets a day keeps the doctor away.

Fact Vitamin C's reputation as a cold fighter originated with the late Nobel prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling, who advocated megadoses of the antioxidant. Pauling's recommendation, however, was based mostly on theory. Over the last 20 years, numerous studies have found no conclusive evidence that large doses stop the spread of colds. In fact, a recent report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences warned that high doses can cause diarrhea. Other studies found that too much vitamin C can skew the results of blood and urine tests.

Experts now believe that vitamin E may be the real immunity booster. Doses up to 200 IU (international units) have been shown to enhance immune function in the elderly, and scientists speculate that E can similarly help younger adults. At Tufts University, in Boston, researchers are studying whether daily E supplements can prevent respiratory infections in the elderly.

Myth: Out in the cold

Go out in the cold without your coat on or with wet hair, and you're sure to get sick.

Fact While extreme exposure to the cold weather outside can make you sick, it's spending more time indoors to escape the frigid temperatures that raises the risk of germs spreading. Also, while colds occur year-round, the viruses that cause them thrive when there's less humidity. Cold weather may also dry out nasal passages, creating a more hospitable environment for infection.

Continued on page 2:  Flu Shots and Zinc


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