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Doctors Separate Cold Weather Facts From Fiction

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The bitterly cold winter weather frosting the Tri-State Area has brought out some of the old wives tales about being in the cold.

Most winter-time myths have to do with the common cold, like "starve a cold, feed a fever."

So how about some other myths?

Does a Hot Toddy or shot of whisky take the chill off?

"It can make you feel warmer because [alcohol] opens up your blood vessels, but you can lose more heat that way," explained Dr. Amy Caggiula, and emergency room physician at Roosevelt Hospital.

Caggiula says losing that heat through your skin actually lowers your overall temperature. So don't drink if you're going out in the cold.

What about going out in the the cold with wet hair?

"It might make you uncomfortable, but you're not going to get sick from that," Caggiula said.

Can you can you catch a cold by being out in the cold too long? The answer is no. Cold temperatures don't cause colds, viruses do. In fact, when it's cold you tend to stay cooped up inside where it is actually much easier to catch a bug from people coughing and sneezing nearby, Dr. Maz Gomez reported.

Can you suffer from allergies in the cold?

"Pollen allergies, no, but indoor allergies like mold and pet dander, yes," Caggiula said.

Do you need more sleep in the cold? No, although you might want to stay curled up under the covers when it's real cold. But you don't need more sleep.

What about the claim that you shouldn't exercise in the cold? That, it turns out, is no myth.

"It's OK to exercise, but really cold air can irritate your airways and trigger asthma in susceptible people," Caggiula said.

If you do exercise indoors and work up a sweat, try to towel off before going out in the cold. Wet skin loses heat much more quickly than dry skin, and it's also more susceptible to frostnip or even frostbite if you stay out in the cold long enough.

Another myth is people are more depressed in the cold. There is no evidence that there's more depression symptoms when it's cold. There is something called "Seasonal Affective Disorder" which can make you feel blue during the winter, but that's due to a lack of sunlight, not cold temperatures.

Can chicken soup zap a cold? There may be some truth to it. Some small studies have shown that ingredients in chicken soup have an anti-viral or anti-bacterial effect and may shorten the duration of a cold.

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