Should You Really Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold?

Categories: Well-being

There are a lot of health myths, old wives’ tales, and misconceptions about colds and flus out there! We checked in with an expert at Orlando Health to find out what’s fact and what’s fiction! Let’s hear from Dr. Naman Dalal, board-certified family medicine physician with Orlando Health Physician Associates:

Q:        Is there any truth to the phrase “Starve a fever, feed a cold”?

A:        This belief comes from the idea that your body needs more calories when you have a cold to generate more heat, and when you have a fever to avoid those calories in order to “cool down.” Now we understand this is not true. In fact, when you have a fever, your body’s metabolism is increased because it is trying to fight off an infection. This causes dehydration and a need for more calories. The most important thing you can do is hydrate yourself and eat when you feel hungry, to keep nutrients in your body and help it fight off infection.


Q:        Is it true that going out in the cold can give you a cold?

A:        Not necessarily, because a cold is only caused by a virus or bacteria and you won’t be exposed just by going out in cold weather. However, cold temperatures can be a more hospitable environment for common viruses and your immune system can be weakened if you are out in the cold for a long time.


Q:        Does the flu shot give you the flu?

A:        No, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. When you receive the flu shot, you are receiving an inactivated form of the virus. This does not contain any parts of the active virus and it is not able to cause an actual infection. Your body will recognize those parts of the inactivated virus and be able to form antibodies and fight the actual virus if you become infected. The symptoms you may feel after the shot are just your body’s immune response to make antibodies and is significantly less than the actual virus would cause.


Q:        Does chicken soup really help you feel better?

A:        Chicken soup is a great choice when you are sick because it contains needed calories and most importantly lots of fluid. Your body needs these calories and fluid to help your immune system do its job and naturally fight off a virus. You also need the sodium and other electrolytes it can provide but be careful of too much salt!

Q:        Do antibiotics cure a cold?

A:        The majority of colds are caused by viruses, and much less often by bacteria. When we use antibiotics, they only target bacteria so if you have a virus-based infection then they will not help you feel better. In the past, we noticed an overuse of antibiotics which can cause resistance and superbugs if not used correctly. That’s why it’s very important to speak with your doctor when you are concerned about a cold to see if antibiotics are appropriate for you.

About the Author

Naman Dalal, MD

Dr. Dalal is a board-certified family medicine physician with Orlando Health Physician Associates. He diagnoses and provides care for patients from adolescence through adulthood and develops long-standing relationships wit them. As a primary care doctor, he takes a holistic approach in guiding patients to prevent illness, set goals and build healthy, realistic habits.

Dr. Dalal earned his medical degree from the Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica. After graduation, he completed his family medicine residency at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, New York, where his served as chief resident his final year.

Dr. Dalal’s professional memberships include the American Academy of Family Physicians. He has volunteered with the American Red Cross and the Salybia Mission Project, where he organized and led free clinics, and provided medical care to the indigenous Kalinago people on the island of Dominica in the West Indies.

He enjoys exercising, play and following sports, and spending time with his growing family.

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