While it's understandable that COVID-19 is at the forefront of our minds, there's another pesky ailment that many of us will have to contend with this fall and winter:
The common cold.
The stuffy head. The runny nose. The sore throat. There's nothing fun about the common cold, but it's something we all have to deal with at some point.
So what do you do when you start to feel a cold coming on?
Do you run to the pharmacy and stock up on over the counter medications? Do you start guzzling orange juice and sipping chicken soup? Or do you curl up on the couch for a few days and just let it run its course?
All of these are common ways to deal with the common cold, but there's another method that people swear by:
Wearing cold, wet socks to bed.
Think we’re joking? We’re not. This is a method that people actually use.
But does it work? We're about to answer the one big question that so many people have: should you wear wet socks to bed to cure the common cold?
Where Does This Theory Come From?
Call it folklore, a myth or an old wives tale. People have been making this claim for decades, and there are plenty of people who believe in its effectiveness.
The idea of wearing wet socks to bed to cure a cold is NOT scientifically proven. And while believers in wet sock treatment swear by it, there's no actual proof to suggest that it's a cure.
But, like many other home remedies, some underlying ideas may suggest why people think this theory actually works.
The "Evidence" Behind the Wet Sock Theory
We've said it before and we'll say it again – there is no hardcore evidence that wearing wet socks to bed will cure a cold. But there may be some truth to the myth.
Here’s some science that (sort of) backs up the claims:
When your feet cool down, the blood vessels in your feet contract, with this contraction, healing nutrients are sent upward through the body's organs and tissues. This boosts the immune system.
It is true that the stronger your immune system is, the easier it is to fight off viruses and infection.
But it's not just the cooling down process that matters. As your socks dry and your feet warm up throughout the night, the blood vessels will dilate. When the blood vessels dilate, they release toxins from the tissue, helping to rid the body of nasty, unwanted germs, bacteria and infections.
Throughout the course of the night, your feet will go from cold to warm. And changes in body temperature helps to stimulate your lymphatic system and blood circulation.
The better your circulation, the easier it is for your body to rid itself of excess fluids, such as congestion in the chest, head, and upper respiratory passages.
These reasons certainly suggest that wearing wet socks to bed might help aid the body fight off the common cold. But a proven remedy it is not.
Ready to Give it a Try? Here's What to Do:
Ready to give the cold sock remedy a whirl? If you want to test it out, here's what you need to do:
Soak your feet in warm water for about 5 to 10 minutes. A foot bath always feels good, so there's absolutely no downside to this step!
At the same time, soak a pair of thin cotton socks in cold water.
After your soak, rub your feet with a dry towel and wring out the socks. You want them to be wet, but not sopping wet when you put them on your feet.
Put those wet cotton socks on your feet. It's not the greatest feeling in the world, but the possibility that it might relieve cold symptoms is usually enough for people to get past the fact that they now have cold, wet feet.
Put a pair of dry wool socks on over the wet ones. Thick wool socks are an important part of the equation (plus they'll prevent your sheets from getting soaked).
Sleep through the night and when you wake up, remove both pairs of socks.
Repeat the process for three days in a row. Even the wet sock method's biggest fans don't claim that it works like magic in one night.
But that's the whole question. Does it work at all? Is it a waste of time? Is it possible that something as simple as wearing wet socks to bed could cure the common cold?
A cure for the cold has eluded researchers and physicians for centuries… so is it even possible that this one simple thing is the answer?
It's worth pointing out that proponents of this theory suggest repeating the process every night for three nights. Most colds clear up within a week on their own, so there’s no evidence to suggest that wet sock treatment has any real effect.
If you suffer from Raynaud’s, diabetes, arterial insufficiency or advanced intermittent claudication, consult with your physician before trying this out. Patients with these conditions can experience adverse side effects.
The Benefits of the Wet Sock Theory to Cure a Cold
Hydrotherapy is a holistic, natural approach to curing an illness. If you prefer natural remedies to pharmaceuticals, you may want to try it out.
Another benefit of wearing wet socks to bed is that it’s free.
Assuming that you already own cotton socks and wool socks, you won’t have to spend $10 or $20 on cold and flu medications that may or may not work. Granted, wearing wet socks might not work either, but at least it won’t cost you anything to try it out.
The better your circulation, the more likely you are to get a better night’s sleep, and that might be why so many people think that sleeping in wet socks helps them get over a cold faster.
The truth is, rest and sleep will help you get over a cold faster. So while people think it’s the wet socks that are curing their cold, it’s more likely that it’s more sleep that’s helping you heal.
There’s one other reason (perhaps the most convincing argument of all) that explains why wearing wet socks can help cure the common cold:
The placebo effect.
Never Underestimate the Power of the Placebo Effect
The placebo effect is real!
The placebo effect is the concept that just the act of taking it convinces people that they see results. Placebos are intentionally ineffectual, but taking one is often enough to convince people that they’re doing something to benefit their health.
Wearing wet socks to bed may just be the most perfect example of this.
Is it simply the act of putting on those wet socks that convinces people that the method works? Does wearing them convince people that they could sleep better and heal faster than if they went to bed in dry socks or no socks at all?
Whether you believe the theory or not, the placebo effect is one way to explain why so many people think it actually works.
Can Wearing Wet Socks to Bed Cure Other Ailments?
Supposedly, wearing wet socks to bed can help you in other ways as well.
Again, none of these theories are scientifically or medically proven, so take them each with a grain of salt.
Some people claim that wearing wet socks to bed can cure a hangover. Um… not so fast…
The believers say that wearing wet socks can regulate your blood pressure and temperature – and that can help you wake up feeling better and more refreshed. The socks alone won’t do anything to prevent a hangover headache or minimize nausea you feel in your stomach, but you might wake up feeling slightly better as a result of a good night’s sleep.
Some people say that wearing wet socks to bed can be a natural pain reliever as well. This is because of the improved circulation that wet socks are thought to promote. Increased blood circulation provides the body with a steady stream of oxygen from the blood cells, reducing pain in certain areas of the body.
Other people even claim that wearing wet socks can aid in digestion and stomach issues. Again, this is based on the theory that wearing wet socks on your feet can increase and improve blood circulation.
Other Remedies to Cure a Cold
Even if wearing wet socks to bed can help cure the common cold, there are many other options (and better options) out there.
Over the counter medications are proven effective. Whether you’re suffering from chest congestion, nasal congestion, or a sore, scratchy throat, there are plenty of scientifically proven medications that can speed up the recovery process.
Getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids is also a key component to healing from the common cold.
So the next time you feel a sniffle coming on that isn’t allergies, do yourself a favor and enjoy some downtime. Use it as an excuse to catch-up on your favorite shows or play some video games. A lack of sleep and a decreased immune system only make it harder to fight off cold, flu and similar infections.
Other things that you can do to ease a cold include:
- Gargling with salt water if you have a sore throat
- Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke that can damage your airways
- Use a nasal saline solution to thin out mucus in your nasal passages
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to a room and ease congestion
Do What You Can to Prevent the Common Cold
In the era of COVID-19, we’re all well-versed on the importance of keeping our distance and washing our hands. But these ideas aren’t new or exclusive to Coronavirus.
For decades, we've known that good hygiene is one of the best things we can practice to prevent a cold in the first place.
Rather than trying to speed up the process of healing from a common cold, do everything you can to prevent one in the first place.
Wash your hands and wipe down frequently touched surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes on a regular basis. When you see someone coughing, sneezing and exhibiting symptoms, keep your distance.
If you touch a shared surface, use hand sanitizer to rid other people’s germs from your hands, if washing your hands with soap and water isn’t an option.
Don’t share drinks, utensils, and personal items with other people (whether they’re showing symptoms of a cold or not).
And, most importantly, maintain a healthy lifestyle and build up a strong immune system to keep your body functioning at optimal levels.
Can You Cure a Common Cold by Wearing Wet Socks to Bed?
With the exception of some naturopathic doctors, you’re not likely to find a scientist or a medical professional who will say that wearing set socks to bed can cure the common cold. But you’ll find plenty of people online who swear by it.
Here’s the bottom line: Try it for yourself and see what you think. It won’t cost you anything, most people won’t experience any side effects, and who knows… it might even work!
Just remember that there are two big pitfalls to going to bed with wet socks: cold feet and slightly damp sheets.
You might also be interested in: The 11 Best Hangover Remedies [Plus 5 Ways to Prevent One]