Myth or Medicine?

If you swallow your gum, it’ll take seven years to digest. Cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis. And don’t you dare go swimming after you eat. Medical myths have been around for ages. That’s why, in this season of colds and flus, we’re talking to University Health Care to put an end to as many of these maddening myths as we can.

What better time than a shivery and snowy day at Pace to chat with Karen Lolli, FNP, Associate Director of University Health Care on the PLV Campus, and bust (or in some cases, put some truth to) some of these common winter myths.

Your momma may have told you that:

What you should know…
Leaving the house with your hair wet will make you sick!
“It’s viruses and bacteria that actually make you sick, but wet hair may cause your body to work harder to keep itself warm and indirectly tax your immune system,” says Lolli.
You lose most of your body heat through your head, so always wear a hat.
“You do lose most of your body heat through your head so it is a good idea to wear a hat…” especially if you leave the house with wet hair.
Too much Purell is a bad thing.
You may have heard that using too much will lower your body’s resistance, but this one’s false. “I would rather people use Purell than not wash their hands,” Lolli says. “It can help reduce bacteria, but Purell doesn’t have any more cleansing ability than warm water and soap. So if warm water and soap are available, that should be used.”
Medicine will make your cold go away.
While prescriptions may make you feel a bit better “Medicine will not make your cold go away assuming the cold you caught is a virus. Antibiotics can alleviate symptoms, but have no effect on your virus. It’s only your immune system that’s going to counteract the virus,” Lolli says.
“Starve a fever, feed a cold.”
No matter how you slice it, this 16th century myth is half-wrong. “While people who are ill may lose their appetites, it’s important to eat,” says Lolli. What are good options? “Easy to digest foods: scrambled eggs, toast, chicken noodle soup are all great. It’s important to also stay well-hydrated. Noncarbonated and noncaffeinated drinks like water, juices, and tea. For those with sore throats, popsicles are a good option.”
Once you’ve had it, you won’t get it again.
“There are more than 100 different cold viruses. Once you have one, you will never get that exact virus again in your lifetime,” Lolli says. However, this doesn’t make you Superman. Sadly, there are always more cold and flu viruses to be found.
The flu shot will give you the flu.
“The ones given through injection are from killed virus. You cannot get disease from a killed virus,” Lolli says. So why do some of us get the flu right after our shot? “At the time that flu shots are available, it’s usually flu season. The flu shot needs about two weeks to confer any type of immunity so if you’ve been exposed you can develop it, but it’s not from the shot.”
Most colds happen in the winter.


“You can definitely get a cold any time of the year, but they are most common in the winter months,” says Lolli. The reason? “It’s not exactly certain; there are a lot of theories. Cold viruses tend to proliferate more in colder temperatures. Central heating may cause dry mucous membranes and allows the virus to enter our body more easily, but there isn’t any one reason.”
Cover your mouth with your hand when you cough.
“You should always cover your cough,” Lolli says, but your hand isn’t necessarily your best option. “The preferred method is to cough or sneeze into your sleeve,” to avoid transferring the virus via your hand. Though regular hand washing and the use (and disposal of tissues) can help cut down on spreading germs.
Gargle with salt water to soothe a sore throat.
This one may not be as tasty as chicken soup or popsicles, but “it is a very effective method of relieving a sore throat.” Lolli’s recipe is “¼ teaspoon of salt to one cup of lukewarm water. We always recommend that to our patients gargle in the morning and then during the day as often as they need the relief.”


You can learn more on the University Health Care website, or visit the center on your campus, open Monday through Friday, 51 weeks out of the year. UHC is available to see faculty, staff, students, alumni, and family members, can bill your insurance directly, and treat illnesses, write prescriptions, complete physical exams, and give flu shots! The annual flu vaccine is still available at both UHC offices in NYC and PLV and is recommended.

“We don’t want to take the place of people’s personal physicians, but we’ve had staff bring in 8 year old children to be screened for strep throat because they can’t get an appointment with their doctor,” Lolli says. “People say we are the University’s best kept secret.”