Dear Mayo Clinic: My mom always blamed me for not drying my hair after washing it, telling me I was going to catch a cold.
She also talked about dressing for the weather, starving the fever, and more. I wonder if there is any truth to any of these sayings.
With COVID-19 continuing, I’m trying to convince my kids, ages 8 and 12, to be more germ-friendly.
Answer: Although your mother may have warned you that going out with wet hair would make you sick, the question remains: does wet hair cause colds? The short answer is no.
Colds are caused by viruses, so you can’t catch a cold from going out with wet hair. And wet hair won’t make you more attractive to germs.
The same is true when it comes to dressing for cold temperatures. While it may be optimal to dress in warmer clothes when it’s cold outside, research indicates that the cold – just like going out with wet hair – doesn’t make you sick.
People often associate going out with wet hair or being underdressed with getting sick, as exposure to germs is often more likely when you go out.
The common cold is transmitted through bodily fluids, for example when sick people sneeze, cough or blow their nose. So you’re just as likely to be exposed to germs indoors, especially when you’re in close contact with other people.
Other myths I often get asked about:
Myth: Vitamin C helps ward off disease.
Fact: Although it’s been well researched, there’s no definitive work that says high doses of vitamin C prevent or treat the common cold.
Myth: Starve the fever; feed a cold.
Reality: While it may be hard to remember the adage, the bottom line is that when you’re not feeling well, eating may not be at the top of your list. And that’s OK. Hydration is more important when you are sick. The best advice is to drink plenty of water or other liquids to stay hydrated, rest and relax.
Myth: Avoid dairy products if you have a cold because they can produce more mucus.
Fact: Ingesting dairy products will not cause more mucus. Most likely, the texture of certain foods or drinks can coat your throat, making you feel like you have more phlegm.
However, some dairy products can be good when you’re in bad weather. Cold ice cream can soothe a sore throat, and the probiotics in yogurt can help ease an upset stomach if you’re taking antibiotics for an infection.
Consult your primary health care provider or pharmacist for a list of foods you should avoid with medication.
The best advice I have is to rely on the most common safe behaviors to avoid getting sick:
• Wash your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Disinfect your space. Clean kitchen and bathroom counters with disinfectant, especially when someone in your family has a cold. Be diligent in wiping down door handles and frequently touched surfaces.
• Use tissues — and masks. Sneeze and cough into tissues. Throw away used tissues immediately. Then wash your hands thoroughly. If you wear a mask, throw it away and replace it with a clean mask.
• Do not share. Do not share glasses or utensils with other family members. Use your own cup or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label the cup or glass with the name of the person with a cold.
• Practice social distancing and adopt safe behaviors, especially if other people are sick. Avoid close contact with a sick person. Consider wearing a mask if you are going to be in public or around many people in an intimate setting. Because COVID-19 is still a threat, it’s important to practice safe behaviors whether or not you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. And cold and flu germs are still prevalent.
• Take care. Eating well, getting enough exercise and sleep, and managing stress can help you avoid getting sick.
You can rest assured that if you go out with wet hair or without a jacket, you won’t increase your risk of getting sick, but it can cause temporary discomfort.
— Dr. Carmen Dargel, family medicine, Mayo Clinic Health System, Onalaska, Wis.