According to the researchers, when you rub your hands together while drying them, bacteria that naturally lives within the skin can be brought to the surface and transferred to other surfaces (like doorknobs), along with any remaining surface bacteria left behind after hand washing. So grab a paper towel to thoroughly dry your hands or let the electric dryer do its job—sans hand rubbing. Or use a natural hand sanitizer, such as CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizing Spray, in a pinch.
Myth or Truth: It’s safe to use nasal sprays on a daily basis.
Myth. Most over-the-counter medicated nasal sprays, such as Afrin, should only be used for three days in a row. “If you use a medicated nasal spray for more than three days you can get a rebound effect and make symptoms worse,” says Ricanati. Need more frequent relief? Ricanati recommends opting for an over-the-counter saline nasal spray (such as Ocean Premium Saline Nasal Spray) to flush out congestion.
Myth or Truth: Zinc helps shorten the duration of a cold.
True. Want to cut your cold short? Take some zinc at the first sign of the sniffles. Research shows that zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of common colds by up to 40 percent, according to a study published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal. Other research shows that zinc supplements can also reduce the severity and length of the common cold.
Myth or Truth: You shouldn’t work out when you’re sick.
Depends. The best move: Listen to your body. If you’re having trouble breathing, feel exhausted or all around crummy, stay home and rest. But if you’ve got a case of the sniffles and are up for it, lace up your gym shoes and go. “You shouldn’t do anything that is overly stressful to your body, but mild to moderate exercise is actually something I recommend,” says Dr. Nicolai. “You don’t want to be too tired or sore afterwards.”
And when you’re done with your sweat session, don’t forget to wipe down any shared equipment like the treadmill rails or the dumbbells you were lifting so you don’t share your cold with other gym members, suggests Dr. Ricanati.
Myth or Truth: Feed a cold and starve a fever (or vice versa).
Myth. No one knows where this old adage got started, but most experts agree it’s not exactly the best advice. “Scientists have found little evidence for either of these myths,” notes Dr. Nicolai. Adds Dr. Ricanati: “You don’t need a three course meal, but starving is not a good idea. You want to keep hydrated and have orange juice, chicken soup and tea with honey.”
Myth or Truth: Honey helps heal a sore throat or cough.
True. A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but a tablespoon of honey can help keep coughs under control. Research shows the sweet stuff helps soothe sore throats and coughs—and, in a study on kids battling upper respiratory infections, honey even beat out an over-the-counter, honey-flavored cough suppressant (dextromethorphan) in symptom relief, according to research published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. That may be because honey, which is loaded with antioxidants, helps soothe irritated mucous membranes, which can trigger coughing.
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