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Did your mom tell you to wear your hat or you’d catch a cold? Did she holler that you should come in out of the rain? You’re not alone. And neither is she. Many a mom has given these same instructions to her children over the years. But is she right? Well, no. As it turns out, she was all wet.
If you’re a senior, you probably not only grew up hearing such words of warning, but passed them on to your own children as well. What we now may think of as wives’ tails, were just plain accepted as mom’s words of wisdom back then. Probably passed down from grandma and great-grandma before her. And who would challenge great-grandma? But, of course, now we have TV and cell phones and the Internet. So once a myth has been dispelled, the news is out!! Everyone knows that what they once believed is nothing but bunk. But do they believe it?
So let’s address the obvious. Colds are viruses. Period. What you wear and where you stand have nothing to do with catching one. People get them when they come in contact with other people who have them. So if you stand out in the snow with no coat and your son sits in front of a warm cozy fireplace, sharing hot chocolate with his friend who already has a cold, guess who’s apt to get sick? Yup — your son.
Beware people who are coughing or sneezing and try not to use utensils – or a telephone – belonging to someone who has a cold. So why do people think that the weather is responsible for colds? Probably because there seem to be more colds “going around” in the winter and winter is cold. The truth is, if there are more colds in winter it’s because people spend more time inside, shut up with other sick people! This is often especially true for seniors in a senior living community who don’t get out much at all in the winter.
So what should you do? Wash your hands – often! Don’t share drinks or silverware with other people. Use Lysol wipes on office telephones and computers. And keep your immune system on track by exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep.
Dispelling the myths – here’s the truth about some common beliefs regarding your health.
You should feed a cold and starve a fever. What does that even mean? Both illnesses often result in sufferers losing their appetites. Try to eat? Definitely. Force feed? No! And if you have a fever, keep up your strength. It’s not the time to diet.
And while we’re at it, you should know that neither wearing garlic around your neck nor filling your socks with VapoRub will get rid of a cold any faster. But either one might get rid of your friends!
Swine flu comes from eating pork. False! This virus got its name because it’s similar to a virus specific only to pigs. The swine flu is specific only to humans and never the twain shall meet. So go ahead – enjoy your bacon!
Green mucus means you have a sinus infection. What? This one isn’t true? Well, not really. Mucus can change color when a large number of white blood cells are called to action when you have a cold. This little gathering is what causes the color change. You might have an infection, but green mucous isn’t the definitive sign.
Antibiotics will cure the flu. Nope. Antibiotics only work to kill bacterial infections. The flu (unfortunately) is a virus. Taking an antibiotic won’t help at all.
You won’t get sick from food dropped and picked up within the 5 Second Rule. Well, you could. Researchers have found that in a matter of seconds, thousands of bacteria had already found a new home on the food. Wet or moist food (lunch meat, peanut butter, jelly, etc.) attracts bacteria faster that dry food, and hard surfaces are bigger bacteria-magnets than carpet.
Drinking alcohol will keep you warm. If you’ve ever attended a late fall football game, there may have been a flask involved. A touch of alcohol added to your soda, coffee or hot chocolate can send an immediate tingle of warmth down your spine. But does it last? No – in fact, it just makes you colder. As the blood rushes to your skin, your core temperature drops. Best to stick with marshmallows in your cocoa.
You can get the flu from the flu vaccine. You hear this one a lot from people who decline to get a flu shot. But it just isn’t true, say doctors. The injected form of the vaccine comes from a dead virus — and once it’s no longer living, it’s impossible for it to infect you.
Cracking your knuckles results in arthritis. Many seniors have arthritis. It can be caused by many things from genetics to normal wear and tear finally taking its toll. But knuckle cracking? Nope. I’d tell you to go ahead and crack away – but just because it doesn’t cause arthritis doesn’t mean it doesn’t annoy everyone around you. Because it probably does.
It’s important to have a bowel movement every day. Some people’s systems just work like clockwork. You’ve probably noticed grandpa disappearing with the newspaper for a half hour after breakfast every day! But it doesn’t have to be that way. And if you’re one of the many people who aren’t “regular” it doesn’t mean you aren’t “normal.” More important is how you feel. If you’re bloated and uncomfortable, you might need to talk to your doctor about a laxative or stool softener. Otherwise, if you feel fine, it’s fine.
Eating sugar will make kids hyper. This is one for all the senior/grandparent babysitters out there! Even though this idea is widely believed by many health-conscious parents, studies have shown that it’s just not true. It’s sort of a reverse-placebo effect at play – if you think sugar will have that effect then when you notice an increase in the kids’ activity or excitement level, you’ll automatically assume that’s the cause. But grandparents – now you know. You can ply those little ones with sweets when you babysit!