10 Myths About the Common Cold and Flu

"Oftentimes when we get a cold or the flu, we lose our appetites, and that's very, very common. It's not important to force feed yourself in order to keep up with the cold."

Instead, you should focus on drinking enough.

"It's very important to stay hydrated when you have upper respiratory infection or a cold, and especially the flu, as well, because when you sweat a lot you're going to lose a lot of moisture," said Bernstein.

"If you can eat that's wonderful because good nutrition will definitely help you get better faster as well. But at least stay hydrated."

Eating can help, but not when it's forced.

"It's important to drink lots of fluids and try to eat as much as possible and keep good nutrition when you are ill. However, it's absolutely not important to starve yourself or to overeat in order to treat either of these conditions," said Bernstein.

Fact or Myth? Chicken soup, hot liquids or honey can help you feel better sooner if you have a cold.

Answer: Fact

"You might have heard from your mother or your grandmother in the past that chicken soup is the cure for the common cold," said Bernstein.

While this tip goes at least as far back as the 12th century physician Maimonides (who some historians believe heard it from his mother), there is now solid medical evidence behind a remedy that was once only thought of as merely a comfort food.

"Even Maimonides, years and years ago, said that chicken soup is a great medication as well as food. But things like chicken soup, up until recently, were thought to only help by being a warm liquid that would soothe the nasal passages, keep the mucus flowing a little bit better and just make you feel better by eating something warm," said Bernstein.

In 2000, University of Nebraska researchers showed this old remedy had wider benefits.

"There was a study ... that showed that it does actually have an anti-inflammatory effect, mobilizing the neutrophils or the inflammatory cells and making them work a little bit better -- and also keeping the mucus in the nose moving so that the virus, which sits in the nose, would mobilize a little bit faster and, maybe, potentially, get you better faster," explained Bernstein.

The evidence isn't quite as clear on other home food remedies, however.

"Things like warm tea or honey or other foods, however, have not been shown medically to help. Although they might make you feel better just from their warmth and their soothing effect," said Bernstein.

"So it's important to just keep your nutrition up, keep hydrated, and if you like chicken soup, go right ahead."

Fact or Myth? There is no way to reduce the duration of a cold or the flu.

Answer: Myth

While the mythical status of most of these remedies may suggest that there's no way out of a layover with cold or the flu, there appears to be one way to cut down sick days from the latter if you are quick about it.

"You can, if you catch genuine influenza early enough, actually take an antiviral that can shorten the duration of the illness," said Schaffner.

But the key to cutting the flu short this way is to act immediately.

"You have to get in to see the doctor within the first 48 hours," he said.


Cold & Flu season is here! Visit the ABCNews.com OnCall+ Cold & Flu Center to get all your questions answered about these nasty viruses.

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