Fact or Fiction: The Common Cold

Karen Kwan
Written by Karen Kwan

Hot chocolate. Cozy cashmere sweaters. Wood-burning fires. Just a few of the things we love about chilly weather. What we’re not so fond of? The sniffles, sneezing and congestion we always come down with each winter (if we’re lucky, just once). While you should definitely do what you can to prevent getting a cold this season (washing our hands often and exercising, and eating well to maintain a healthy immune system), read on to learn what’s true when it comes to this virus.

Taking cold medicine won’t cure your cold

Fact. Taking medication doesn’t cure you of your cold. What it could do is help make you more comfortable by alleviating your particular symptoms or by shortening the duration of your cold. Also, there’s not one that’s the best cold medicine—what your bestie swears by may not work for you at all. Ideally, you should try a few different ones until you find one that works for you.

You can take your allergy medication to help with your cold’s runny nose and sniffles

Fiction. Your allergy medication might help with your runny nose and sniffles when you’re exposed to ragweed, for example, but it won’t help with your cold’s runny nose and sniffles. Why not? Well, when you react an allergen, your body is viewing the substance as harmful and this triggers your body to release a chemical called a histamine (this is what is causing your runny-nose symptoms). Your antihistamine allergy medication prohibits the action of the histamine.

A cold, on the other hand, is a virus. And you can take meds to help lessen your symptoms, but mostly you should focus on getting plenty of rest, staying well hydrated and eating healthy foods so your body gets the nourishment it needs to get better.

(And while on the topic of what will help your cold, know that taking antibiotics won’t do anything for you. Antibiotics are for fighting infection-causing bacteria, not viruses).

The cold virus only emerges in the winter

Fiction. The cold virus is present year round (although in the winter colds are usually caused by rhino- corona- and parainfluenza viruses, and in the summer, one particularly more nasty one known as enterovirus may also be the culprit). Why do we fall sick from them more often in the winter is because the cold weather tends to make us all huddle indoors more often and we’re in close proximity to other people—ie. people who are under the weather with a cold, who we then catch the virus from. Also, the dryness of the winter air may be a factor, too. Our nasal passages tend to be drier in the winter, making them more vulnerable to viral infection.

About the author

Karen Kwan

Karen Kwan

Karen Kwan is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Flare, Elle Canada and, Glow, Metro, Huffington Post Canada, Travelife and Travel + Escape. She also runs her blog,, where she writes about health, beauty, fitness and lifestyle.

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