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Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold

Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold

Have you had this year’s flu yet? I got it just a few days after Christmas and stayed miserable for a full week. As I laid around my house, wanting desperately to feel better, I remembered something my mom used to say to me when I was a kid: Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold.

Is that actually true? Or is it just some outdated home remedy?

I decided to prepare myself for the future by investigating the facts.

First, I did some research on fever. As I scrolled through various online articles and scientific studies, I looked to see if there is any evidence that short-term starving can knock out a high temperature.

Nope. Apparently that part of the axiom is false.

In fact, you should NOT starve a fever because that internal heat is actually your body’s way of burning out the virus. Your body needs to stay fortified with healthy food in order to keep up the good fight.

And what about feeding a cold? Will you recover faster if you eat between sniffles?

Most experts offer common sense advice on this issue. Dr. William Schaffner, in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says that, when we’re sick, most of us don’t feel like eating much. And that’s okay. Don’t force yourself to eat if you don’t want to.

More important than eating, argues Schaffner, is drinking plenty of fluid. Without adequate hydration, the congestion and mucus that go along with the flu will get dry and thick – clogging your sinuses and respiratory passages. That, he says, lays the groundwork for complications like sinus infection, bronchitis, even pneumonia.

In addition, when mucus hardens it becomes difficult to cough. And coughing is our body’s way of expelling mucus and the germs inside it.

“Cold or fever, it’s the liquids that are important,” Schaffner says. Whether you want them or not, you need them.

So the old adage is half true. DO feed a cold (as much as you can without forcing yourself). But DON’T starve a fever because your body needs energy to fight the virus.  Most important, whether it’s a cold or a fever, stay hydrated.

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