Skip to content

    Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

    Font Size

    The Truth Behind Mom's Cold and Flu Advice

    By Barbara Brody
    WebMD Feature

    Mom may have your best interest at heart, but does she actually know what's best when it comes to coping with colds and flu? While some common mom-approved tips are spot-on, others are totally bogus -- and there's a lot of gray area in the middle. Read on as we reveal the facts you need to help protect yourself.

    Mom said: "Don't even think about going outside without a jacket."

    The reality: When the temperature dips well below freezing, it's smart to grab a coat, hat, and gloves before you step outside. (You probably ought to dry your wet hair as well.) These commonsense measures will help keep you warm and cozy, plus they'll protect you from frostbite and hypothermia. But here's where mom got it wrong: Feeling chilly does not make you any more likely to catch a cold.

    Colds are caused by viruses, period. While you may be more prone to getting sick during the winter, the blustery winds outside have nothing to do with it. Laboratory studies on human cells show that the virus that causes the common cold can survive in cold weather better than it can in warm. Combine this with the fact that people tend to spend most of their time indoors in the winter and you have a recipe which makes it easier for germs to spread, explains Andrew Pekosz, PhD, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University.

    Still, you may be wondering if temperature changes can mess with your resistance and make you more vulnerable to picking up a bug. False, Pekosz says. "I haven't seen any hard scientific data to back that up."

    Mom said: "Chicken soup is the best cure for the common cold."

    The reality: "Cure" is a big overstatement, but mom was on to something: Soup is mostly liquid, and staying hydrated may help you feel better and heal faster, Pekosz says. Plus a bowl of hot, steamy broth can temporarily ease a stuffy nose.

    Chicken also contains an amino acid called cysteine, which can help thin mucus. "It's similar to a drug, acetylcysteine, that is sometimes prescribed to people who have bronchitis," says Peter Richel, MD, chief of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    hot toddy
    15 tips to help you feel better.
    man sneezing into elbow
    Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
    teen girl coughing
    Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
    elder berry
    Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
    Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
    cold weather
    Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
    Boy holding ear
    woman receiving vaccine shot
    woman with fever
    Waking up from sleep
    woman with sore throat