Entries in Colds (3)


How Celebrities Get Over Colds

Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are lots of cold remedies out there, both conventional and unconventional, that people swear by, and celebrities are no exception.

From drinking alcoholic beverages to taking over-the-counter medicines and herbal remedies, the well-known women listed below say they beat their nagging colds thanks to these concoctions.  But even if science doesn't back up some of these swear-by remedies, as long as the treatment isn't dangerous, there's no harm in doing whatever makes people feel better, doctors say.

"If people use these remedies and they're not harmful and make people feel better, then why not?" said Dr. Robert Schwartz, a professor and chairman of family medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Amanda Seyfried

The Mamma Mia and Les Misérables actress told ABC News she uses well-known over-the-counter medicines for colds, along with a special twist at night.

"I have a nasal spray that I use when I get a cold, and I drink a lot of water," Seyfried said.  "Loads of water, and Emergen-C."  Emergen-C is a powdered mix of extremely high doses of vitamins C and B, along with other natural ingredients.

"And at night," Seyfried said, "Whiskey and honey and lemon."

A heated mixture of whiskey, honey and lemon, also known as a hot toddy, is an ages-old remedy sometimes made with brandy instead of whiskey.

"Whiskey will certainly make people feel better," said Schwartz.  Alcohol relaxes the blood vessels, he explained, which makes people less aware of their symptoms.

"And if you drink enough, it can put you to sleep, but it has no impact on how the body responds to treat a cold," he added.

Ramona Singer

Another star who touts the benefits of Emergen-C is Real Housewives of New York star Ramona Singer.

"If I feel like something's coming on, I take those packs.  I love the flavors, especially raspberry," Singer said at the annual New York Women in Film and Television Awards.  "I'll do it two or three times in one day."

"It has potassium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin B, which are all important in small amounts, but there's no evidence that it will help you get over a cold or prevent you from getting one," Schwartz said.  "It's been disproved that taking a lot of vitamin C will make a cold go away."

Ana Gasteyer

The Saturday Night Live alum, who also starred in Broadway shows and currently has a role on the ABC series Suburgatory, relies on garlic pills, vitamin C, extra sleep and exercise.

"Oh and working out!  If you do a light workout, it really helps," Gasteyer told ABC News.

"Garlic is an ancient remedy, but there's no real evidence that it works," Schwartz said.

But exercise can help people feel better if they have a cold.

"Exercise produces endorphins, which are brain chemicals that make you feel better," Schwartz said.  "Our bodies were designed to move, which definitely contributes to well-being."

Getting extra sleep can also help kick the immune system into gear and help people feel rested.

Christine Baranski

The Emmy-winning actress and Broadway star told ABC News that taking Wellness Formula, a combination of vitamins and herbs, keeps her healthy.

"When I take that I tend not to get sick," she said.

As with Emergen-C and other herbal remedies, there's no scientific evidence that taking these types of formulations will prevent colds or make them go away faster, Schwartz said.

What's more effective than relying on alcohol, garlic or other alternative treatments is to take medications to help with symptoms, such as decongestants and painkillers, he said.

And perhaps the best remedy, although not always the easiest to endure, is time for the body to heal.

"The immune system is, for the most part, very capable of fighting off most viral infections," he added.  "But viruses have to run their course."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is Driving with a Cold the Same as Driving Drunk?

Pixland/Thinkstock(CARDIFF, Wales) -- Are you driving a car while you have a bad cold? Maybe a bout of flu? You might as well be driving drunk, according to a new study conducted by Young Marmalade, a UK-based car insurance company, and Cardiff University in Wales.

Motor safety experts found that the driving skills of people who were sick were estimated to drop by about 50 percent when compared with those who were healthy. They were more likely to have reduced reaction time and experience a major loss of concentration, so much so that the researchers compared people who were driving under the weather to people who were driving under the influence of “four double whiskeys.”

“This small-scale trial provides a warning for motorists,” Nigel Lacy, director of marketing for Young Marmalade, said in a statement. ” A heavy cold can impair a driver’s mood, concentration and judgment.”

Young Marmalade did not provide the full study despite an ABC News request, nor did Cardiff University, so the full details on the research remain undisclosed. And because of the lack of details, experts noted that it is difficult to discuss the findings in their entirety.

“As a physician with a master’s degree in epidemiology, I wonder about the impact of problems,” said Dr. Martin Bittner, staff physician in the department of infectious disease at the VA Hospital in Omaha, Neb. ”Are we dealing with something that occurs commonly?  Or is it rare?  Those questions, the [release] points out, lack answers.”

While there are no official figures on accidents related to sneezing and other cold and flu symptoms, there are about 500 million colds per year in the U.S, according to a telephone survey conducted between 2000 and 2001. Since about 90 percent of Americans drive every day, about one million Americans will be driving with a cold on any give day, ABC News medical researchers tallied.

Researchers at the Cardiff University Common Cold Unit said they simulated driving among study participants by using a black telematics box to record drivers’ speed braking and cornering.

It really shouldn’t be surprising that illness would decrease alertness and reaction times, said Dr. Christopher Ohl, associate professor of medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

“Everyone knows that when they have a fever and flu symptoms they are not at their best physically or mentally,” said Ohl. "Those with illness with high fever should be staying home for a lot of reasons, including getting needed rest and protecting others from illness. Perhaps we should add safe driving to that list. One needs to understand there is a wide range of mental impairment from illness, and more minor ailments are really not much of a problem if symptoms are controlled with non-narcotic medications.”

But, even in saying that, Ohl noted, “the vast majority of persons with colds or flu are unlikely to be as impaired as that from alcohol or narcotic consumption.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Busted: Top 5 Cold and Flu Myths

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- 'Tis the season for colder weather, impending family gatherings, holiday preparations ... and sick days caused by colds and the flu.

Along with flu season comes the age-old bits of wisdom from our grandmothers (and their grandmothers). But research has proven several to be false.

One of the biggest myths is that going out into the cold without a coat or with wet hair will make you sick.

"There are actually some studies on that, and it's not the case," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in Nashville. "That doesn't mean we should go out and get cold and wet, because it's very uncomfortable, but we won't get sick from it."

In addition to this widely held belief, here are a few other common cold and flu myths now busted by experts.

1. Flu Shots Can Cause the Flu

"That is the big myth, that no matter how hard we try and put it down, it keeps circulating," said Schaffner. "It's completely untrue."

The flu vaccine, he explained, is made up of only parts of the flu virus, so it's not a whole virus, and as a result, it can't make you sick.

The form of the vaccine that is sprayed into the nose, he added, is a tamed full virus, and you can get some symptoms from it, such as a sore throat or a runny nose that last about a day, but it will not get into the lungs and cause the flu.

Many people who get flu shots later report they get the flu anyway, so they believe the shots don't work.

"The vaccine isn't 100 percent effective, it's only about 50 to 70 percent effective," said Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center, in New York City. "But it will mollify the virus, and hopefully the person won't have a severe reaction."

If a person who received the vaccine does get the flu, it will be much less serious than if he or she were unvaccinated.

Also, as people get older, Schaffner explained, the vaccine doesn't work as well, but he stressed that they are much less likely to develop pneumonia or be hospitalized for a severe case of the flu.

In other instances, people may get colds or other viruses that can lead to flulike symptoms, but they are not related to the vaccine and are just coincidences.

It's also common to experience reactions to the shot, such as achiness or a low-grade fever, but these symptoms are not a result of having the flu.

Although experts recommend flu shots, they also stress that washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of colds, flu and other illnesses.

2. Younger, Healthier Adults Don't Need Flu Shots

Younger adults who are healthy overall may not believe they need flu shots, that the vaccines are for children and the elderly. Not true, say the experts.

"Influenza is the important winter virus," said Schaffner. "It's the most likely to get you, and it can put a healthy person in the intensive care unit in 48 hours."

Even mild cases of the flu, while they may not be debilitating, can still pose a danger to others. People may not feel sick and may go to work or school, but they can pass on the virus to others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone older than six months of age be vaccinated.

3. Vitamins and other Herbal Remedies are Cold and Flu Fighters

Despite the belief that vitamin C and echinacea can help the body fight off colds or the flu, data suggest these claims may be a bit overblown. The data are less clear on vitamin C.

Low levels of vitamin C and vitamin D could affect the course of the flu, but making efforts to achieve above-normal levels are probably not helpful.

"You just want to bring those levels back to normal," said Tierno. "Above normal has not been shown to be very effective."

Zicam, a popular over-the-counter zinc-based cold and allergy remedy is also not effective, according to Schaffner.

There is one old, widely used herbal remedy that actually does tame the flu virus -- the star anise plant. Modern medicine has made good use of the plant, Tierno explained. It's one of the main ingredients in Tamiflu, an antiviral medication used as flu therapy.

4. Getting Rid of the Flu Means Antibiotics

Since colds and the flu are caused by viruses and not by bacteria, antibiotics will not be effective against either illness.

Contrary to popular belief, people with flu symptoms should try and see a healthcare provider in order to get antiviral therapy started as soon as possible, especially those who are prone to complications.

While antibiotics will not work against colds or the flu, there are times when providers may prescribe them.

"It's true that there are some people who are in a certain age group, like the elderly, who may get a secondary infection, like pneumonia, so antibiotics may prevent that. There are also people who are prone to sinus infections, so even though the antibiotics will not eradicate the cold virus, they may prevent a secondary infection," said Tierno.

Using antibiotics against virus not only is ineffective, Tierno said, but also contributes to antibiotic resistance.

5. Flu Shot Last Year, Don't Need One This Year

The flu virus changes from year to year, and so does the vaccine. That's why experts recommend getting vaccinated against the virus annually.

This year, however, is a bit unique, explained Tierno, because the strain of virus this year is the same as last year's. This means that this year's flu shot is the same as last year's.

But he recommends that people still get vaccinated.

"There's no guarantee that the flu shot given last year gave people sufficient antibody protection, and this year's shot will boost that protection," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio