Alan Reed | The Sun
Clarissa Bumphus, a catering associate at Lourdes, delivers meals to patients in the hospital. Lourdes dietary staff recommends a balanced diet to maintain optimal health. When sick with a cold or fever, they advise patients to consume extra fluids like water to avoid dehydration and thin secretions.
Starving fevers and feeding colds is not the best plan to overcome winter sickness.
Rita Bailey, a registered dietitian at Lourdes, called the saying an old wives’ tale. She said the saying could have come about with the scientifically unsound belief that denying a body food will deprive a fever of fuel.
“In truth, you’re only starving yourself of nutritional benefits and anti-oxidants that may boost immunity,” Bailey said.
Bailey recommended ample rest and fluids with a cold or a fever. She said fluids are most important with a fever as a person can become dehydrated. Plenty of cool liquids can also soothe a sore throat.
For foods to eat with a cold and fever, Bailey recommends foods rich in vitamin C and beta carotene. She listed citrus fruits and juices, sweet potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes as good sources of vitamin C. For vitamin A or beta carotene, she suggested yellow and orange vegetables and leafy greens. Foods like soups may relieve congestion with steam, and contain some vitamins from vegetables.
“I don’t know if there is anything to avoid, but some foods may not taste good because our sense of taste is altered as we lose our sense of smell,” Bailey said. “Some people might possibly want to avoid dairy food because it may thicken mucus secretions.”
Bailey added a balanced diet at all times was usually best for optimal immune health.
Dr. William Conyer, physician at Baptist Prime Care, said no foods or vitamins have been proven to shorten the cycle of a viral illness.
“The best thing to do is to go by your appetite,” Conyer said. “The body is naturally wise enough to decide. You should listen and begin to eat what you can eat as you are able.”
Conyer said when for a person suffering from a fever, despite the feeling of chills, bundling in thick blankets can drive a fever higher. He recommended a light blanket when chilled. During periods of heat and sweatiness, he recommended the lightest cover possible or none at all.
Conyer said there is some controversy about fever reduction. Fever is the body’s way of destroying infection. If tolerable, he suggests some patients endure a fever of 102 or less. If higher, they may lower fever with his first choice of acetaminophen. His second choice, if a person responds poorly to acetaminophen or cannot tolerate the drug, is ibuprofen.
“Take care of yourself. Don’t smoke. Eat a healthy diet, and practice good handwashing. That can help prevent colds,” Conyer said. “Use hand sanitizer when shaking hands or handling money before you touch your face. Any time you feel like you have something serious, or haven’t seen improvement in the second week, see a doctor. If you have a high fever, shortness of breath or recurrant vomiting, you should also check with a doctor.”