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DrSugar Answers: Sweating Out a Cold?

DrSugar is in the house and answering your questions.

Hey DrSugar,
What's the truth behind "sweating out a cold"? Sometimes when I am sick, people suggest that I go for a run or something to sweat it out, but it seems like my body is a little weak and that's the last thing I should be doing. Is this just a myth or is there any truth to "sweating out" sickness?
Thanks!
– Miss Myth

To see what DrSugar has to say on this matter,

.

The idea that you can “sweat out a cold” by exercising or sitting in a sauna is an old wives tale. However, compared to other home remedies, this one actually seems to have some scientific logic behind it. In response to infections, such as a cold virus, the body releases inflammatory chemicals that raise the body’s temperature causing a fever. Some viruses and bacteria have narrow temperature windows at which they can survive and a fever is your body’s way of creating an unfavorable environment for the virus. The old wives tale about “sweating out a cold” is likely derived from this observation.

Unfortunately, letting a fever run its course has not been shown to be an effective treatment against infections. This is why we often treat fevers with medicines such as Tylenol. In reality, attempting to sweat out a cold by exercising or heating up the body is much more likely to cause harm and prolong the cold symptoms – so your instinct is correct. The best way to shorten the course of a cold is to conserve energy and stay hydrated with plenty of fluids. Light exercise shouldn’t cause problems, but excessive exercise with the intent to cause heavy sweating will only tire the body out and cause further dehydration. The best way to recover from the common cold or flu is to hydrate with plenty of fluids, stay rested, and treat the symptoms of sinus congestion, sore throat, etc. with over the counter cold medicines.

Other old wives tale remedies for colds have varying results when scientifically tested. These include chicken soup, hot toddies (hot water and whiskey), vitamin C, garlic, and the concept of “feed a cold, starve a fever.” Most of these remedies will likely have some benefit if you believe they will work simply because of the placebo effect, but none of them are officially advised or supported by the medical community.

If you have a question for DrSugar, send me a private message here and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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Allytta Allytta 8 years
i've always been told to drink a lot of hot tee and stay under a blanket to sweat it out.
pluckyred pluckyred 8 years
I've heard from a variety of sources that you shouldn't exercise while sick because it suppresses the immune system. They say that if you're feeling up to it you can do light physical activity such as walking. Bottom line: Listen to your body. It knows. Every time I hear the phrase "feed a cold, starve a fever." I remember Kelly Bundy messing up the phrase in an episode of Married...With Children, stating, "Feet are cold, starve for pizza".
corduroy1 corduroy1 8 years
i have had a stomach flu "thing" for about a week now, and have been itching to get back to the gym. even this morning ive been debating whether i should risk it or not. now, im just gonna keep resting for now until it runs its course, then im RUNNING to the gym!! thanks!
NatureMadeLisa NatureMadeLisa 8 years
Great tip, thanks for sharing Dr. Sugar
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I've never heard that one. I usually work out if I have a cold, but if I have any chest congestion, I try to rest a little.
Luckyslushy Luckyslushy 8 years
I haven't gone to the gym in 2 weeks because I've been sick... glad to know I was doing the right thing!
JessieSP JessieSP 8 years
Oh my goodness. Now we have Dr. Sugar! And yes I've heard of this expression too. And I've also had alot of people tell me that it's worked for them in small cases.
linb linb 8 years
I've never heard that expression.
silly3 silly3 8 years
I always keep in mind that if I don't feel like doing something (physically, not mentally!), it's probably not good for me anyway. Thanks for debunking the myth!
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