Stay healthy this winter
Got the sniffles? That’s great! “Having a cold is an excellent opportunity to enhance your health by strengthening and stimulating the immune system,” says Carissa Doherty, a naturopathic doctor in Burlington, Ontario

But before we can strengthen our immune system, we must unravel the mysteries of colds and flu. These myth-busters are from naturopathic and traditional doctors who know a few uncommon things about the common cold.

Does cold weather lead to colds?
You better believe it! According to Susan Biali, MD, author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You (Beaufort, 2010): “A classic study showed that when people had their feet put in a bowl of ice-cold water, they were more likely to catch a cold shortly after.”

She adds, “Another more recent review found that being outside in cold temperatures and inhaling cold air made you more likely to catch both upper (e.g., colds) and lower (e.g., pneumonia) respiratory tract infections.” Biali explains that the physical stress of cold weather can predispose us to catch a virus.

Do kisses spread colds or flu?
You bet. And smooching isn’t the only way to invite invaders! Say I have a cold and rub my eyes—or I sneeze and cover my nose and mouth with my hand. After we shake hands, you’re vulnerable to viral invasion if you rub your eyes or nose. That’s why washing our hands frequently is so important.

“Viruses can also be passed indirectly,” says registered pharmacist Gary Kracoff, ND. “For instance, if I hold a pole on the bus and later you hold the same pole, you’re vulnerable.”

Should we take aspirin/acetaminophen for a low-grade fever?
Aaron Van Gaver, ND, doesn’t recommend this because a low-grade fever is our body’s normal response to a flu. He adds that if a fever reaches 102 F (38.9 C), fever-lowering medications may be necessary—especially for infants and small children.

Is chicken soup an effective flu buster?
Research from the University of Nebraska shows that chicken broth slows the movement of white blood cells (neutrophils) that cause congestion. This helps clear clogged nasal passages.

Research also shows that a hot drink can relieve coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose and chills. Hot drinks and homemade soups are inexpensive, safe and effective yummy cold “remedies.”

Is it dangerous to exercise when we have a virus?
“Exercise is an excellent way to get the blood circulating, boost the lymphatic system and get viral ‘junk’ out of the body,” says Doherty. “Exercise can also elevate your core body temperature, which can help fight viruses and shorten the length and severity of the illness. However, if you’re exhausted, you need to let your body rest and heal.”

Dr. Biali adds that some viruses can infect the heart if we exercise while sick. If we’re quite unwell, we should use our energy to recover—and talk to a health care practitioner.