Countless myths are circulating about how we can get through winter in good health. Some of them are true, others are based on wrong conclusions from correct observations. Still others have a true core and a fantastic superstructure, some are wrong. We take a close look at some common myths about the cold season.
Myth 1) The body loses heat through the head, so we need a hat
This idea has a real core. If we keep the rest of the body warm, through a winter jacket, gloves, thick socks and long underwear, and without a hat, the body actually gives off heat through the head. However, if we are naked, the heat flows out over the whole body. So putting on a hat is right, as part of appropriate clothing.
Myth 2) Frostbite occurs in extreme cold
This idea is wrong. At ten degrees below zero, skin and tissue can freeze to death. Particular caution applies to the parts of the body that are on the outside and have little blood flow: the tip of the nose, earlobes, fingers and toes.
Cold wind can cause frostbite even at higher temperatures. A hat, warm socks and gloves are therefore a must. You should pay particular attention to the protection of the earlobes and nose, as we can activate the circulation in the fingers and toes by movement.
Myth 3) Women are frozen baits
This myth is correct. Women generally freeze more than men because, on average, they have more fat in their bodies and fewer muscles. Firstly, muscles generate warmth, secondly, men have a thicker epidermis. The thinner skin of women causes their vessels to constrict faster, so less blood flows. You freeze faster.
Myth 4) Cold comes from cold
This wisdom probably comes from a time when nobody knew anything about viruses. The observation is correct at first: In the cold season, flu infections and colds are rampant.
But that is only indirectly due to the cold. Viruses are the trigger for colds. These spread quickly in the cold. The change from dry, heated rooms and moist, cold outside air dries out the mucous membranes; Viruses can easily penetrate. If we freeze now, our immune system also drops.
In winter, you should make sure that you humidify the apartment in the air, be it with water dishes on the heater or a mist.
Myth 5) Wind increases the cold
That's right. Even if the temperature remains the same, the wind displaces the warm layer of air that surrounds our body due to body temperature: It therefore switches off the "buffer zone". The stronger the wind, the colder we feel the cold.
Myth 6) Alcohol warms you up
Caution, do not try yourself. Some people are freezing to death after getting drunk and feeling warm in their stomach on the way home and falling asleep at the front door.
We feel "warm" when we are smart. In reality, the alcohol widens the outer blood vessels. The body emits too much heat, even when the cold feels less.
Myth 7) Light drives away winter depression
That can be right. Many people think that the darkness in winter puts pressure on the mind. In fact, the "winter blues" corresponds to a lack of vitamin D. This characterizes listlessness, listlessness, tiredness and depressed mood. Those who get too little vitamin D find it difficult to concentrate, react irritably, and perceive everyday activities as a burden.
Our main source of vitamin D is the sun's UV rays. We can only partially absorb this vitamin through food such as high-fat fish. So when the days are short, go for a walk in the light for at least an hour a day.
A sunlamp also helps. However, light alone does not help against vitamin D deficiency; it must be UV light. If you suffer from an undersupply, vitamin D supplements also help.
Myth 8) Winter babies often get sick
This sounds like kitchen astrology, according to which the stars determine our fate. But it was true, at least in the past. Children born in winter, like their mothers in our latitudes, very often suffered from vitamin D deficiency.
In babies, this leads to problems with bone growth, general immune deficiency and even serious complications. That is why vitamin D prophylaxis is standard for mothers and babies today.
Myth 9) The suicide rate increases in winter as a result of the winter blues
This cannot be proven empirically. In Nordic countries like Finland with high suicide rates, most people commit suicide in the fall. In Germany there are hardly any fluctuations in the seasons, in Hungary most people kill themselves in summer.
Myth 10) Vitamin C protects against colds
An influence of vitamin C on catching cold viruses could not be proven. However, vitamin C has a soothing effect when a cold breaks out.
Myth 11) A hot bath helps against hypothermia
That is wrong. A very hot bath also weakens the circulation and makes the skin sensitive. Warm water helps, however, but it shouldn't be warmer than 38 degrees. Instead of a full bath, you can rub frozen parts of the body with warm water.
Myth 12) Those who have a cold should go to the sauna
The right thing is: a sauna prevents a cold because it promotes blood circulation and strengthens the immune system. On the other hand, if you already have a cold, damage yourself with a sauna session. The temperatures are too high for the weakened body.
Myth 13) Chicken broth helps against colds
That's true. Chicken broth contains active substances against viruses and helps both to prevent a cold and to fight the common cold. The hot broth also warms up the body and promotes blood circulation.
Myth 14) A dog does not need winter protection
Winter sweaters for dogs are often regarded as humanization, since a dog does not naturally need this. A dog is not just a dog: A Labrador or Golden Retriever who looks for the coldest places in the summer to lie down does not need a “jacket”, just like a Husky.
Dogs with short fur and small bodies, chihuahuas, Jack Russell terriers or whippets can use such cold protection very well.
Myth 15) Jogging in winter damages the body
The opposite is the case. It only becomes critical at temperatures below 15 degrees below zero, then the body has problems heating up the air we breathe. However, the following applies: Sport in the winter air stimulates blood circulation, strengthens the immune system, thus indirectly prevents colds and even expels “winter depression” in sunlight. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
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- Harri Hemilä, Elizabeth Chalker: Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (accessed 03.09.2019), DOI
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