Dr. Price’s Medical Note of the Month-Feb. 2009, ll

Today’s number is 3.

Three things that I always wanted to know about before going to medical school were the following:

  • Can venturing out in the cold with hair wet or without a coat cause colds?• Can vinegar cure high blood pressure?• Why do flu shots seem to cause the flu?

As I began my journey to becoming a doctor, I thought about the ways I’d be able to contribute to my community and my society. I also wondered what my family members and friends would ask me regarding medicine and their health. And then as I began medical school and learned various things, I found myself trying to find the answers to just regular, common topics. I laughed at myself because I didn’t really want to know the cure for cancer or how to discover the next vaccine, I wanted to know about the common stuff.

Take the first question for instance. We’ve all been told to cover up or to not go out with wet hair because we’d catch a cold. But just how true is that? How do cold temperatures affect the immune system? I hate to say it, as mothers all over Durham will likely disagree, but this isn’t actually true. There is no study that confirms this.

What is true is that during the colder more frigid months, more people stay inside and in close proximity with other people. If these people have colds, then it’s more likely to spread because they’re inside with other people longer to infect them. If someone’s immune defense is weakened by things like smoking, alcohol and fatigue, then they are more likely to catch a cold.

By the way, colds are caused by viruses and therefore should not be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics only treat bacteria. That’s probably the biggest misconception I deal with on a regular basis.

There are over 200 different types of viruses that cause colds, such as rhinovirus and adenovirus. We all know the symptoms: runny nose, sneezing and coughing. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but we do have many things that treat the symptoms. And there are things that have been shown to reduce the time that your cold may last.

One of those things is vitamin C. If taken within the first couple of hours of symptoms starting, regular doses have been proven to moderately reduce the length of time your cold stays. Although zinc and Echinacea are also available, they’ve not yet been proven to be helpful on a consistent basis.

Good old-fashioned chicken soup contains antioxidants that actually do reduce inflammation and can treat symptoms of the common cold as well. So, Mom was right on this one!

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