In part two of our series on debunking old wives tales, Ivor Horn, MD, MPH gives a behind the scenes peek at what she tells parents about snot and what not.

1.      Greenish mucus means your child has something worse than a cold.

FALSE: It’s just the body doing its work. Even though green mucus appears when a child is ill, it does not mean things are getting worse and does not determine the type of infection.

2.      Colds and flu are most contagious before symptoms appear.

FALSE: It’s not that people are more contagious, they’re just spreading illness before they know that they’re sick. A person is just as contagious the day before symptoms appear as they are when the first symptoms arrive.

3.      Colds cause ear infections. 

FALSE: You have something called a Eustachian tube that connects the sinuses with the nasal passages and the middle ear, and colds and congestions can cause that tube to fill and bacteria to grow. The reason kids get more ear infections is because that tube is longer when you’re younger and the angle makes it more likely to get an infection, but when you’re older, it changes so the fluid can drain better.

4.      Not taking care of a cold leads to the flu.

FALSE: The bug that causes a cold is not the same as the bug that causes the flu. Flu is caused by the influenza virus; a cold is caused by a rhinovirus.

5.      Don’t get a flu shot; it will give you the flu.

FALSE: Each year, the influenza vaccine protects against three different strands of influenza as determined by researchers based on the prior year’s outbreak. It is possible to become infected by a strand not covered by the vaccine, even if you get a shot.

6.      Breathing the same air as a sick person will make you sick.

FALSE: Illness is spread through droplets, not through breathing the same air. Those droplets need to be shared from someone through an act like sneezing or coughing, this is why it’s important to wash hands regularly and use proper hygiene.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ivor Horn, MD, MPH, was a general pediatrician at Children's National Health System. She discusses teen issues through her own life experience with her daughter and as a general pediatrician.

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