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Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold?

It's that time of year again. The wind is bustling, hats and jackets are rustling, holiday hoopla is all around, and coughs and sneezes are a common song.

With the average adult contracting about three colds per year, and children getting an average of eight annually, the "common cold" is the most infectious disease in the United States.

So if the cold strikes you or your family this season, as odds suggest it will, what do you plan to do?

How about "Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold?" You've probably heard this saying many times before, but is it really good advice? Will it rid you of your fever? Can it banish the sniffles, chills, and wheezing and relieve you of that nasty cold?

It is estimated that during a one-year period, people in the U.S. will suffer one billion colds collectively. Provoking inflammation of the membranes in the lining of the nose and throat, colds can be the result of more than 200 different viruses.

Fever vs. Cold

Your body registers a normal internal temperature of 98.6 degrees. When you have a fever, your body is destroying germs, bringing them to a temperature at which they can't survive. In fact, a fever is part of your body's miraculous healing process.

On the other hand, a cold is basically a nasal infection. It can lead to sore throats and other things, but a cold lives and dies in your nose.

Cold Facts

Although it can happen anytime of year, you are most likely to catch the common cold during the fall and winter seasons. This may be attributed to the fact that:

  1. More people are indoors and closer to one another

  2. Many viruses thrive in low humidity, making the nasal passages drier and more vulnerable to infection.

Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses ("rhin" is the Greek word for nose) that are found in invisible droplets in the air you breathe, or on things you touch. Amazingly, more than 100 different rhinoviruses can penetrate the protective lining of your nose and throat triggering this immune system reaction.

The Symptoms of a Cold

There's no doubt that you've had the misfortune of dealing with a cold before, so you can probably recall the first symptoms of this unpleasant disease. You often have a trickle in the throat, then your nose gets congested or runny, and a persistent cough starts to develop. Some other symptoms that may develop are muscle aches, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Unfortunately some of these symptoms can last about 7-10 days no matter what you do or eat. Since colds are a viral infection, there is no cure and antibiotics will not help.
Okay, so what should you do?

When you're sick, your appetite often decreases because food doesn't taste as good and you're tired. Fighting off a cold or flu demands energy. You're best off eating light, healthy food such as soups made with broths and loaded with veggies. Drinking lots of water is of course a key strategy, too.

Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold

Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold is an old saying dating back hundreds of years to ancient medicine. The idea at the time was that if you're hot, you need to put less fuel into your body so you'll cool off (starve a fever). If you have a cold and are chilled or weak, you need to eat to stoke up your internal fires (feed a cold.)

Contrary to the above, when your body is fighting infection, it needs plenty of nutrients, fluids, and rest. If you don't eat, your body will not have the energy it needs to fight. As discomforting as a fever is, it is not harmful in and of itself. It simply means your body is fighting back and trying to mend itself.

According to Dr. Michael Raffinan "For every degree your temperature is up, you burn more calories." Your appetite may be down, but you need to meet the higher metabolic requirements with watered-down juice and foods to prevent muscle wasting.

Consciously "starving" a fever is a horribly bad idea. For every one degree rise in your body temperature, there's an estimated 7% increase in basal metabolism - the rate at which the body burns calories to carry out functions like breathing and pumping blood through the arteries.

Stop It Before It Starts!

It's a cliché of clichés now, but still true: the best way to fight illness is to prevent it. Several things you can do to keep from getting a cold or passing one on to others:

  • Eat well

  • Get plenty of rest and exercise

  • Wash your hands frequently during cold season

  • Avoid being close to those who have colds

  • If you sneeze or cough, cover your nose or mouth

  • Keep your home and personal space in your office clean with proper cleaning tools (such as PerfectClean - read more about PerfectClean now.)

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