What Do You Know About the Common Cold?
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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
Do you think getting cold can give you a cold? Is it bad to drink milk when you have a cold? Can chicken soup cure a cold?
Ranit Mishori is a family medicine doctor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington. She says colds are more common in winter, but not because of low temperatures. The cold weather just means people stay inside more.
RANIT MISHORI: "People tend to congregate and be together and the way the common cold virus is transmitted from one person to another is through handshakes, through sneezing, or coughing on one another."
Adults generally get two to three colds a year. Children are likely to catch four or five. Dr. Mishori says some people mistakenly believe they can become resistant to colds.
RANIT MISHORI: "There are about two hundred different viruses that cause the common cold. People think that once you get infected one time you develop immunity for the rest of your life. This is wrong."
There is still no cure for the common cold. But Dr. Mishori says there are ways to feel better sooner.
RANIT MISHORI: "So if you get a cold and on day one and you start taking about two grams of vitamin C a day, there is evidence that it might shorten the number of days that you will be suffering with these symptoms."
She says honey can also help.
RANIT MISHORI: "There is increased evidence that it helps shorten the duration of the common cold sometimes even by two to three days."
Dr. Mishori says honey seems to be especially effective in children with colds. But the Agriculture Department says never to feed honey to babies less than one year old. It says even honey in prepared foods may contain substances that can make babies very sick.
Some people believe in treating a cold with chicken soup. Does it work?
RANIT MISHORI: "Chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties, so it helps reduce the duration of the cold but also it helps clear the mucus."
Mucus is the sticky substance that can make you cough and have trouble breathing during a cold.
Have you ever heard the old saying "feed a cold, starve a fever"? Dr. Mishori says this is not necessarily a good guideline to follow. She says if you have a cold but do not feel hungry, then don't eat.
RANIT MISHORI: "But you have to drink a lot and you can drink water or you can drink tea -- anything that gets fluids into your body. That's very important."
But what about drinking milk during a cold? Some people think it only causes more mucus. Dr. Mishori says yes and no.
RANIT MISHORI: "Dairy products do not cause increased secretions, but they can thicken the secretions. So it's possible that discomfort is somewhat more enhanced when you drink milk. But obviously, if you’re a baby and that's all you drink, you should not stop giving babies milk."
And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. How do you and your family treat colds? Tell us at voaspecialenglish.com, where you can also read and listen to all of our reports. I’m Barbara Klein.