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Fact or Fiction: The Lowdown on Colds

child with cold

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Few illnesses can claim a more varied collection of supposed causes and cures than the common cold. So with winter just around the corner, we asked Dr. Eileen Schneider, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, to help us separate the helpful from the hype.

1. Can family members pass the same cold back and forth? Theoretically, yes, says Dr. Schneider, although you're more likely suffering from another bug. "Generally people who have a cold get a temporary immunity. It may seem like you've caught the same cold again, but it could also be caused by a different virus." To avoid catching whatever's lurking in your household, she suggests, practice proper coughing etiquette (into your elbow) and hand washing.

2. Can you cure a cold by feeding it? Good nutrition does play a role, explains Dr. Schneider, but the short answer is no. However, she adds, "Eating a well- balanced diet can help you remain healthy and improve your chances of fighting off a cold—or having minimal symptoms when you do get one."

3. Can you catch a cold by going out in winter with wet hair? The link between wet hair and colds is "an old wives' tale," notes Dr. Schneider. There's some evidence that getting chilled weakens the immune system, but that's in people under extreme conditions, not in kids just out of the shower at the bus stop. "As long as you don't feel cold, chances are, your body can tolerate it," she says.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of FamilyFun