When it comes to the common cold, fake "facts" are in overdrive -- thanks, in part, to how common it is. Since a cold is so easy to catch -- and so difficult to relieve -- everyone and their cousin seems to have a theory about how to get (or avoid) the sniffles. So let's jump in and debunk all the "facts" we know about colds.
First off, stop taking large doses of vitamin C. While it's super for you if you're a sea captain in the 18th century at risk of scurvy, there has been no conclusive test proving it's helping you prevent a cold [source: UAMS]. At best, it might help dry up some nasal secretions, after the fact, but certainly isn't worth the exorbitant price of products like Airborne [source: Fresh Air].
Next, being out in the cold isn't going to give you a cold (or influenza, for that matter). In fact, being indoors is the problem. In the winter, we're more likely to shutter ourselves inside and transmit our colds and flus much easier to those around us [source: UAMS]. And while my mother might've tried to convince me that stepping outside with sopping wet hair would lead to the usual sore-throat-runny-nose business, that was probably no more than a bluff to get me to look presentable in public. Having a wet head will not give anyone a cold.
Author's Note: 10 False Science Facts Everyone Knows
I know it's not scientific, but the poor lemmings. Why would Disney want to create a narrative where innocent rodents were painted as pathologically morbid? Read more about the controversy here.
- Ask the Experts. "Can somebody finally settle the question." Scientific American. Jan. 28, 2001. (June 12, 2014) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-somebody-finally-sett/
- Boyd, Robynne. "Fact or fiction?" Scientific American. June 28, 2007. (June 12, 2014) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-south-of-equator-tornadoes-spin-in-opposite-direction/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Seasonal Flu Shot." United States Government. Sept. 26, 2013. (June 12, 2014) http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm#catch-flu-from-shot
- Chudler, Eric. "Neuroscience for Kids: That's Tasty." University of Washington. (June 12, 2014) https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/tasty.html
- Ferris, Robert and Welsh, Jennifer. "35 science 'facts' that are totally wrong." Business Insider. July 2, 2013. (June 12, 2014) http://www.businessinsider.com/science-misconceptions-and-myths-2013-7?op=1
- Fresh Air. "'Ah-choo!' takes on mysteries of the common cold." NPR. Sept. 13, 2010. (June 12, 2014) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129829134
- Glenn Research Center. "What is microgravity?" NASA. (June 12, 2014) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/shuttlestation/station/microgex.html
- Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS). "Does earth-sun distance cause seasons?" Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley. 2008. (June 12, 2014) http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/pass/passv14/Seasons_EarthSunDist.pdf
- Hammond, Claudia. "Do your hair and fingernails grow after death?" BBC. May 28, 2013. (June 12, 2014) http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130526-do-your-nails-grow-after-death
- Hammond, Claudia. "Does sugar make children hyperactive?" BBC. July 23, 2014. (June 12, 2014) http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130722-does-sugar-make-kids-hyperactive
- Helmuth, Laura. "Top ten myths about the brain." Smithsonian Magazine. May 19, 2011. (June 12, 2014) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/top-ten-myths-about-the-brain-178357288/?no-ist
- Hoover, DW et al. "Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions." Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. August 1994. (June 12, 2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/7963081/
- Kelly, Alice Lesch. "The dairy debate." Los Angeles Times. March 7, 2005. (June 12, 2014) http://articles.latimes.com/2005/mar/07/health/he-calcium7
- Khan, Amina. "Evidence of young universe's growth spurt is discovered." Los Angeles Times. March 17, 2014. (June 12, 2014) http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-cosmic-inflation-20140318-story.html#axzz2wWHpKEcS
- Kluger, Jeffrey. "10 science myths that won't go away." TIME. March 7, 2014. (June 12, 2014) http://time.com/15628/top-10-science-myths/
- Reporter. "Humans have fewer genes than rice." The Newspaper of Imperial College London. July 2002. (June 12, 2014) http://www.imperial.ac.uk/college.asp?P=3509
- University of Arkansas Medical Sciences. "Medical Myths." 2014. (June 12, 2014) http://www.uamshealth.com/medicalmyths
- Wolraich, Mark et al. "The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children." The Journal of the American Medical Association. November 1995. (June 12, 2014) http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=391812
- Woodford, Riley. "Lemming suicide myth." Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Sept. 2003. (June 12, 2014) http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=56
Conventional wisdom says your hair 'gets used to' whatever shampoo you're using. HowStuffWorks explores whether this old myth holds up like hairspray.