9 Cold Weather Health Myths Debunked

KUSA — As the weather gets colder, 9NEWS Medical Expert Dr. Comilla Sasson is here to debunk nine myths about how to stay healthy ahead of this winter season.

1) The cold makes you sick.

People are indoors more during the winter months, so they are exposed to more bacteria and viruses, which can get them sick. Certain viruses like flu peak during the October to May months. The cold weather itself has nothing to do with getting you sick.

2) I am taking vitamin C, vitamin D, echinacea and zinc to fight off infections.

Vitamin C and zinc have both been shown to shorten your cold symptoms. There’s no good data showing echinacea really works. There is mixed data on vitamin D. Eating a good diet mixed with vegetables and fruits will get you what you need for vitamins and minerals. Check with your healthcare provider first before taking any over-the-counter supplements since they can interact with your medications.

3) I wash my hands all the time with hand sanitizer, so I should be fine.

Hand sanitizer will kill most viruses, but not all. You must make sure you use the right amount of hand sanitizer and let it dry completely. Some viruses, like norovirus, which causes vomiting, is not killed by hand sanitizer. Soap and water are best to get rid of all bacteria and viruses, but the hand sanitizer is better than nothing at all.

4) It’s cold out, I don’t need sunscreen.

The sun’s rays are just as strong in the winter months as they are in the other seasons. Snow and ice can reflect even more sunlight, up to twice as much. Grab the SPF 30 and put it on, regardless of the temperature. Don’t forget those sunglasses, too, to keep the eyes safe.

5) I’ll just drink some alcohol to keep myself warm.

Although it may feel like drinking alcohol is making you warmer, it does not. In fact, when you drink, the blood vessels dilate or get bigger, and blood flows to your skin and away from your internal organs. So, it may feel like you are getting warmer, but you are not.

6) I wipe my desk down every morning, so I won’t get sick.

It’s not enough to wipe down that desk and keyboard every morning. Make sure your wipes have bleach in them to kill all the germs that are around. Some viruses can live up to two weeks on surfaces, so keep that in mind when you are cleaning. And don’t forget to wipe down those pens you share, and the phones as well.

7) I always get down in the dumps during the winter.

There are a lot more stressors during the winter, such as the holidays, family get-togethers and more. This may be contributing to how you are feeling. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can cause people to go into a deep depression in the winter primarily. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why people develop SAD, but think it may be related to sunlight exposure, melatonin and serotonin levels going down. If you are feeling depressed, you should see your healthcare provider.

8) My asthma is well-controlled, so I should be fine in the winter.

The cold, dry air can trigger your asthma because it irritates the small parts of the lungs which help us breathe and causes us to make more mucus. All those pesky viruses we get in the winter can also aggravate your asthma. Make sure you have your rescue inhaler available..

9) I had the flu and feel better. I can go back to work, I don’t have a fever anymore.

If you have the flu, you need to at least wait until you have not had a fever for 24 hours. Also make sure you are not coughing and spreading the virus to everyone around you. You can get Tamiflu, a medication to help shorten the length of symptoms, if you see a provider within 48 hours of symptoms starting. But, for the sake of the rest of your workplace and/or school, stay home for the extra day to make sure you don’t get anyone else sick.

Follow 9NEWS Medical Expert Dr. Comilla Sasson on Facebook and Twitter. Have a question for Dr. Comilla? Email her at c.sasson@9news.com

© 2018 KUSA-TV

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