The Truth Behind Mom's Cold & Flu Advice

An older mother and her adult daughter touching their heads together and smiling( — Mothers are celebrated for their eagerness to help their children on matters big and small: how to behave, what to wear, whom to marry, when to have kids … and, oh yes, how to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Does science back up what Dr. Mom told you about the common cold? Or was she full of hot air? Here’s the truth behind 10 familiar cold-busting tips:

1. “Don’t forget to wash your hands.”

Mom was right on this one. Colds commonly spread when we touch someone or something that harbors cold-causing viruses and then infect ourselves by touching our nose or eyes. Hand washing is great at eliminating these viruses before they sicken us (and before we spread them to others).

Hand sanitizers work well, as does plain old soap and water (no need for antibacterial soap). The key is to wash thoroughly — and regularly. Hand washing is part of the routine in my home. The first thing we do after coming home is hang up our jackets, and then we wash our hands. Be aware that cold viruses can survive on objects for several hours — perhaps overnight.