Feed a Cold and a Fever, Experts Say

By   |  January 26, 2024

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

FRIDAY, Jan. 26, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- The old saying “feed a cold, starve a fever” is baloney, doctors say.

People fighting off a seasonal respiratory virus need adequate nutrition, regardless of their symptoms, according to advice from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Fever is just one of the many defense mechanisms the human body uses to stave off any infection, said Dr. Pedro Piedra, a professor of molecular virology, microbiology and pediatrics at Baylor.

All the body’s immune responses require energy gained by eating a well-balanced diet, Piedra said. That’s why sick-friendly foods like chicken noodle soup are commonly recommended.

Feeling awful from an infection might put a dent in a person’s appetite, but Piedra said folks should resist that malaise and pick up a spoon or fork.

Cold weather tends to increase people’s risk of catching the flu, the common cold and COVID-19, Piedra said.

That’s because people tend to huddle together indoors when it’s cold outside.

“Colder temperatures also allow for viruses to survive on surfaces longer, and the humidity we experience here in Houston also contributes to these viruses being able to survive outside of a host,” Piedra added in a Baylor news release.

“There is also a saying that if your hair is wet and you are in a cold environment, you will get sick. That is partly true,” Piedra added. “You won’t contract a virus, but you may weaken your immune system, which might invite sickness.”

In addition to eating enough, sick folks also need to make sure they’re staying hydrated, Piedra said.

Warm tea is a great remedy, not only helping hydration but also soothing sore throats.

Sore throats also can be remedied by a warm saltwater gargle, which can ease irritation and also remove excessive mucus from the back of the throat.

Piedra also recommended that people who’ve just gotten sick get tested for flu or COVID and, if positive, ask their doctor about drugs that can shorten their illness.

“Antiviral drugs can be prescribed by your physician and are available to ease symptoms of various viruses, like influenza and SARS-CoV-2, but they need to be taken early on in the infection to make sure they are effective,” Piedra said. “If your cold, flu or COVID infection advances and you begin having difficulty breathing, or if you move around and you don’t feel well, reach out to your physician as this may be a sign that your condition is worsening.”

And as always, prevention is the best cure, Piedra added.

Flu, COVID and RSV vaccines can help ward off respiratory infections, and people can minimize their risk by wearing a mask and regularly watching their hands, Piedra said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about respiratory illness season.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, Jan. 24, 2024

What This Means for You:

Eating well and staying hydrated will help you shake a respiratory infection.