I fortunately haven't caught the flu this year, but I was miserably sick last winter. When every part of your body hurts and it feels like medication isn't working, you get desperate for a solution relatively quickly. When I was under the weather and not feeling any better, I asked friends for at-home remedies in my desperation. Unfortunately, none of them worked. After learning more about the common cold and the flu virus — both how they're spread and how they affect our bodies — I realized that there's tons of old-fashioned cold and flu remedies out there, and even the ones you probably swear by definitely don't work. Sorry.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there's no cure for a cold, and your symptoms will likely go away on their own within 10 days. You can take antiviral medication for the flu if you're treated within two days of getting sick, but there's similarly no cure for the virus (though if you have a fever above 103 degrees, are experiencing chest pains, or other serious symptoms, you should definitely go see a doctor) . Even though you'll get a ton of websites promising natural solutions guaranteed to magically rid you of cold or flu overnight, that's not exactly realistic. Here are nine of the most popular old wives' tales about your run of the mill winter illnesses that don't actually have any basis in science.
1Vicks VapoRub On Your Feet Cures A Cough
2You Can't Drink Dairy While Sick
When I had a sore throat as a kid, my mom would only give me popsicles because she thought ice cream would make me even more stuffy. It turns out that you can drink all the milkshakes you want when you're sick: According to BBC News, research has shown that dairy products don't worsen mucus production.
3Onions Around Your Home Will Cure The Flu
As someone who prides myself on having a fresh-smelling home, I feel personally attacked by this old wives' tale. The idea is that if you place unpeeled onions in every room of your home, the onion will somehow absorb the flu virus. This dates back to the 19th century, but as ThoughtCo says, there's not any scientific proof to back up the claim.
4You Can Sweat Out A Cold
If you want to curl up under a thick blanket when you have a cold, I'm right there with you — but don't get warm in the hopes of sweating out a cold. Layering up when you're sick hasn't been proven to actually do anything, per ABC News.
5The Flu Shot Gets You Sick
This is probably the most dangerous old wives' tale of them all — because a flu shot may make you feel tired or achy, some people speculate that it's actually making you sick. The flu shot can't give you the flu. However, it can lessen your chances of getting the flu and make your symptoms milder if you do get the virus.
6Staying Inside When It's Cold Prevents Illness
I'm not really an outdoorsy person, so I'm a fan of staying inside, but if you're staying inside when it's cold to avoid getting sick, you won't have much luck. According to Healthline, you're actually much more likely to get sick if you're indoors with a bunch of other people.
7You Should "Feed A Cold, Starve A Fever"
Even if you haven't heard any of the other old wives' tales we mentioned, you've likely had someone warn you to starve a fever by avoiding food if sickness has you feeling too warm. According to Scientific American, this is actually a bad idea — if you're sick, your body needs energy to fight off illness, so starving yourself won't be helpful. Likewise, "feeding" a cold isn't going to do anything other than make you feel full — though it's a good reminder to keep some soup on hand in case you're not feeling up to cooking.
8Vitamin C Can Cure A Cold
I keep a bottle of Vitamin C on my nightstand just in case I start to feel sniffles, but apparently, my efforts are all in vain. Vitamin C is only effective if it's taken regularly before the onset of a cold, per the Mayo Clinic.
9Wet Hair Will Get You Sick
Blow-drying my hair is a herculean task I usually leave to my hairdresser, but when I do attempt to deal with my hair at home, I let it air-dry. I've always been worried about going to sleep with wet hair, but the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences says there's no proof that wet hair means you'll catch a cold. If you're trying to stay healthy, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and get a flu shot, according to Fitness Magazine. These things are proven to give you a better chance at avoiding illness, unlike these old wives' tales.