WHY EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT ABOUT COLDS IS WRONG! Can You Catch a Cold from a Kiss? Does Vitamin C REALLY Protect You? and Is Chicken Soup the Best Remedy? after Years of Conf Licting Advice, Scientists Have Finally Separated Fact from Fiction about Those Sniffles

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Byline: CHARLOTTE DOVEY

AN EARLY morning nip in the air signals the start of the colds and flu season. During the average lifetime each of us will suffer from around 200 colds -- lasting, on average, nine days each -- which works out at a staggering five years of congestion, coughing, headaches and sore throats.

Colds are the most common infections in the world, but that's just an average. Some people suffer more than others, succumbing every winter to an exhausting succession of runny noses, while others seem barely to catch a sniffle.

Why is that so? Scientific research over the past ten years has revolutionised our view of the common cold -- what causes them, what they do to our bodies, how to stifle them -- and when to leave them alone.

Now a leading science writer, Jennifer ackerman, has talked to leading experts and trawled through endless studies to reveal the truth -- and the myths -- about the common cold.

Her research makes for surprising -- and sometimes bizarre -- reading...

A WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEM DOESN'T MAKE YOU VULNERABLE

COLD symptoms do not result from the destructive effects of viruses but rather from how strongly your immune system reacts to them. In other words, terrible cold symptoms are the product of a strong immune system, rather than a weak one.

So bear this in mind the next time you read an advertising slogan for a dietary supplement which promises to help you fight colds by boosting your immune sys tem.

VITAMIN C WONT STOP A COLD

NO CURE for the common cold has been better studied than vitamin C, which, it is claimed, helps by increasing infection-fighting white blood cells. However, more than 30 clinical trials involving more than 10,000 people have examined the effects of taking daily vitamin C and have shown that it does not prevent colds. at best, it only slightly reduces the duration of symptoms.

The only time it might help is if you're engaged in extreme physical exercise or exposed to extreme physical cold. Several studies have shown that soldiers, skiers and marathon runners in these situations who down a daily dose of 200mg of vitamin C have the risk of a cold reduced by half.

CUTTING OUT ALCOHOL IS NOT THE ANSWER

ONE or two drinks a day actually diminishes the likelihood of catching a cold, according to studies at the Common Cold Unit in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Non-drinkers were at far greater risk, though scientists don't know why. 'It could be that the types of people who drink are less susceptible for other reasons,' says Sheldon Cohen, who led the research.

Or there could be a direct link. alcohol might somehow limit the replication of the viruses. either way, Cohen doesn't encourage drinking as a prophylactic or cure for the common cold, as the risks of consuming more than a drink or two a day to general health far exceed the benefits in cold reduction, he says.

YOU CAN*X27;T CATCH A COLD BY KISSING

THIS will surprise many people, but a kiss won't give you a cold. The largest family of viruses causing colds are rhinoviruses, and these rarely enter our bodies through the mouth, according to research at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. When infected, volunteers kissed cold-free volunteers for a full minute and a half, but only one case of crossinfection occurred in 16 trials.

Estimates suggest that it takes as much as 8,000 times as much virus to cause infection by way of saliva than by other routes. So kissing or sharing drinks is unlikely to spread a rhinovirus.For most cold viruses, the nose and eye are the main points of entry, spread by coughs and sneezes or by touching an infected surface with your hands.

WASHING YOUR CLOTHES WON*X27;T KILL VIRUSES

WASHING infected clothes may be one of the major transfer points in the home for germs, according to research by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of arizona. …