Feed a cold, feed a fever.

The Master’s excellent article, Is it "feed a cold, starve a fever" or vice versa? And should you?, just doesn’t quite go far enough. I understand that He just can’t go on making things up as He goes along, but I’ve no such inhibitions.

Feed a cold - Right, see below.

Feed a fever - The logic starts with assuming that a fever is a good thing (within reasonable limits). The human body has evolved with this defense mechanism to fight off pathogenic infections. Seems a number of these viruses are very very sensitive to temperature. A virus that thrives at 98.6ºF will quickly die off at 100.9ºF.

The other thing the human body does is it makes antibodies to fight the infection. These antibodies are made of protein, which in turn is made of amino acids. As The Master points out, “you certainly don’t want to stress your system” so we certainly don’t want the body to be destroying proteins to free up the necessary amino acids. The other source for these amino acids is from the food we eat.

Ergo, feed a fever, the body needs the raw materials to fight the infection. The same logic applies to colds and flu, and really just about anything from broken legs to raking wounds.

One thing the “herbal tea” whack-o’s advocate that is actually right on is holding the tea cup up under your nose. Breath the hot steam into your nasal passages simulating a fever. That way, when you’re cured, you can stomp around swearing Peppermint Tea cures Everything.

My credo has always been “Feed a cold, feed a fever, eat whatever the hell you want because you feel like crap”.

Remember that the people who came up with Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever believed in the four humors, used blistering and bleeding, and thought that Homeopathy was a major medical breakthrough.

Before we knew that most diseases are caused by tiny unseen microscopic creatures (and even smaller things that aren’t even creatures like viruses), we had no idea why people got sick. Medicine was a lot of random guessing. Interesting reading is The Ghost Map. This is the tracking down the cause of a cholera epidemic that hit London in 1854. This is when germ theory of disease was just starting to take hold in some doctors. In the book, it describes how controversial the idea that cholera was caused by a bacteria in the water, and what Dr. Snow had to go through to show that the cholera epidemic was caused by a polluted well.

The best premodern medical advice I’ve seen is this: If you each chicken soup every day when you have a cold, you’ll be over your cold within a week. Otherwise, it’ll linger for seven whole days.

Pish posh … a cup of Peppermint tea a day will cut that time to just a half a fortnight.

I remember reading that this was yet another example of an aphorism which has been shortened to the point where its original meaning is murky and the longer version is easier to understand. For example, the aphorism “Waste not, want not” means “if you avoid wasting what you have, you will avoid being in want [need].” Don’t throw away food and you won’t go hungry.

In this case, the true meaning is “When you’re sick, make sure you get food. Starving yourself while sick will only make you sicker.” which became “If you starve a cold [mild illness], you’ll only end up feeding a fever [serious illness]” which was then shortened to “Starve a cold, feed a fever.” ** It’s not a proscription in favor of starving; it’s a warning about the dangers of starving.**

That’s the explanation I read and it made sense to me. Sorry I don’t have a citation for it.

Another example of a mangled aphorism is “The proof is in the pudding.” which is supposed to be “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”, that is to say, when you make some pudding and it looks good at first, you really won’t know how good it is until you eat it.

And when the blessed recovery arrives, eat even more to celebrate. Yeah! :slight_smile:

My understanding about starving a fever was that it had to do with the possibility that the fever presaged the onset of diphtheria, in which food in the gut can be serious and/or fatal. Anyone with greater medical knowledge than me (which is almost everyone) know if there’s any truth to this?

The actual phrase is to ‘feed a cold AND starve of fever’ and comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Wait, what? How does breathing steam “simulate a fever”?

This struck me as unlikely, and in fact a Bartleby search of the Canterbury Tales for ‘cold’ gets dozens of hits, none of them near ‘fever’, and similarly nothing for feed/fede/starve/starb/fever/feber. There are maybe hundreds of places on the net that cite this Internet legend, none of which say anything about where in the Canterbury Tales it’s supposed to occur, many of which use the made-up non-Middle-English ‘starb ob feber’. I wonder who first made it up?

By heating the nasal passages where the viruses live.

In Chaucer’s day, starve still had its original meanings of “die” or “kill”, anyway.