A lot of what we believe about the common cold is myth. No, you won't get a cold because you went outside with a wet head or slept in a drafty room. But here's what is true. When you're sick, some common mistakes can make your cold symptoms worse -- or prevent you from getting better.
If you're feeling crummy and stuffed up, here are 7 things that could make your cold worse.
Swine flu is pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared.
The declaration does not mean that swine flu -- aka novel influenza 2009 type A H1N1 -- is any more deadly today than it was yesterday.
A pandemic sounds scary. But what does it really mean? Here are WebMD's answers to your questions.
What is a pandemic?
What does the WHO pandemic alert mean?
Why has WHO declared a pandemic now?
Has H1N1 swine flu become more dangerous?
Am I less safe now that swine flu...
Pretending you're not sick. This never works. You can't ignore a cold. When you get sick, you need to take care of yourself. Your body needs extra energy when it's fighting an infection. If you try to push through a cold, especially if you have a fever, you'll exhaust yourself. That could make your cold worse.
Not sleeping enough. Getting enough sleep is key for a healthy immune system. One study found that sleeping less than 7 hours a night almost triples your risk of getting a cold in the first place. If your cold symptoms keep you up at night, try to go to bed earlier or take naps during the day. You need extra rest, however you get it.
Getting stressed. It turns out that stress -- particularly chronic stress -- can make colds worse. It can also make you more likely to get a cold. Over time, high levels of stress hormones can stop your immune system from working normally. The result? More sick days and a cold that lingers. So take it easy when you're sick. You'll lower your stress levels and recover faster.
Drinking too little. You need to drink a lot of fluid when you're sick. Why? Fluids will help thin your mucus, making your sinuses drain better. Just about any fluid will help. Water, juice, hot tea, and soup are all good. Contrary to what you've heard, even milk is OK -- the notion that it causes mucus build-up is a myth.
Drinking too much (alcohol.) Too much alcohol can leave you dehydrated and worsen cold symptoms such as congestion. It can also suppress your immune system and -- potentially -- interact with cold medications you're taking. Until you're feeling better, it's best to lay off the booze.
Overusing decongestant sprays. Be careful with decongestant sprays. They may work well at first. But if you use them for more than three days, your stuffy nose will get worse when you stop.
Smoking. Smokers get more colds than nonsmokers. They also get worse colds that last longer. Smoking damages cells in the lungs, making it harder for you to fight off a cold. If you're sick with a cold, don't smoke -- and don't let anyone around you smoke either.