Can a Blow Dryer Cure the Common Cold?
There is no known cure for the common cold but some people swear that blowing warm air into the upper respiratory passages of the nose and mouth with a hair dryer can actually stop a cold or at least lighten the symptoms. It sounded a little fishy to me, but after learning that the rhinovirus doesn't multiply well at normal body temperature, I am beginning to that there may be something to the practice.
(photo by breakfast for dinner CC2.0)
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How Could a Hair Dryer Stop a Cold?
Reasons that a Hair Dryer Could Work
- The rhinovirus, which causes about a third of all colds, reproduces best at temperatures between 91 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (33-35 degrees Celsius). This is cooler than normal body temperature which is why the virus replicates mostly in the nose and upper throat where the temperature is relatively cool. Rhinovirus does not replicate well in the lower respiratory tract. It stands to reason that raising the temperature in the upper respiratory tract with a blow dryer can inhibit rhinovirus replication, at least temporarily.
- Rhinovirus dies at temperatures above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Raising the temperature of the nasal passages and throat that high could actually kill the virus that causes colds.
- Warming and drying the nasal passages with a hair dryer shrinks swollen nasal membranes, temporarily relieving pain and pressure, even if the replication of the virus is not stopped.
But Wait a Minute
Reasons a hair dryer might not work
To be honest, I question the effectiveness of using a hair dryer as a cold remedy and here's why.
- A blow dryer might stop replication temporarily, but wouldn't it start right back up as soon as the heat is taken away?
- Even if you can get the very front of the nose heated enough to kill some of the virus, wouldn't it be very difficult and painful to heat deep enough into the nasal passages to kill a significant number?
- And what about the dry skin and chafing?
Try This Steam Inhaler - Recommended for colds and other respiratory ailments
If a hair dryer is uncomfortable or dries your skin too much, try this well reviewed steam inhaler from Vicks.
More about the Blow Dryer Treatment for the Common Cold - Resources I consulted in preparing this page
- Advantages of the Hair Dryer Trick
A nice post in a metafilter thread pointing out what I have mentioned on this page, plus some other advantages of the hair dryer trick, like its safety for children and the elderly.
- Rhinovirus Entry in Microbe Wiki
More than you ever wanted to know about the rhinovirus.
What is your favorite cold remedy? - Please share in the guest book.
Sarah on March 16, 2020:
Viruses work by invading the sinuses and attacking the lining. From there it starts replicating and goes into the blood stream attacking the muscles (causing body aches)...
Once this is complete because the lining of the nose is damaged you’ll experience nasal drip, which goes down the back of the throat, the virus will then start attacking the lining of the throat (causing a sore throat)...
Then it will get into the lungs damaging the lining causing more production of mucus and congestion, coughing, etc...
By time the human host shows symptoms the virus has already invaded the blood stream, throat and lungs.
You would have to heat up the entire human body to over 140 degrees for a minimum of 20 minutes to kill all the virus in the body...
At this point the virus within the humans bloodstream, lungs, sinuses, etc will be killed...
However and unfortunate side effect of this would be the human host would also die!
But the goal is to kill the virus right? So who cares if the human dies too...yay we successfully killed the virus in the human body.
Who wants to be the first volunteer??
How do people not know how the human body works, how viruses work?
Michelllle on April 01, 2013:
Chicken soup. Lots of it. Vegetable juice, wheat grass juice too. sleep.
Dipalika on October 21, 2012:
My favourite cold remedy is here .. specially point numebr 3 :
OUTFOXprevention1 on March 10, 2012:
Sleep! Interesting lens!
daedrea lm on March 01, 2012:
Chicken soup, tea, a lot of water and a lot of tissue as well
Keeah on February 04, 2012:
I go with the Netipot, gargling with warm salt water, AND spreading raw minced garlic on whatever food you're eating. These will not help with the exhaustion but clear you out so you can sleep much better.
cmadden on December 24, 2011:
Chicken soup, vitamin D, hot tea, and lots of rest.
lemonsqueezy lm on July 22, 2011:
A netipot worked well this past winter. I was skeptical but desperate.
thebabyshop on July 07, 2011:
Personally my favorite remedy is a steaming hot shower, which hopefully does something to clear out my nasal passages when I get a cold. Hot drinks and veggie rich meals also seem to help (at least you'll be hydrated and full of vitamins).
anonymous on May 08, 2011:
My Mom used to make us lemon hot drinks and have us breathe the steam, now I do the same thing with tea. There is something extra special about lemon tea for a cold. What a practical idea for a lens.
howtocurecancer on May 05, 2011:
Blessed by a SquidAngel.
spritequeen lm on February 24, 2011:
Coldeze always work for me!
Jeremy (author) from Tokyo, Japan on January 09, 2011:
@CCGAL: I get fewer colds than ever before too. I never really thought of it having to do with age!
CCGAL on December 25, 2010:
zinc - because it has been proven by actual science to be effective. I also use vitamin C and echinacea tea, because even if not proven totally effective, the placebo effect kicks in often enough that I believe they help me. Also Mentholatum for my nose if it gets sore, and menthol-eucalyptus drops. It's nice to know, too, that as one ages one tends to experience fewer colds. That's about the only good thing I can say about getting older, LOL.
TeacherCaren on December 25, 2010:
I'd be more inclined to use the steam inhaler than using a blow dryer.
Karen from U.S. on December 21, 2010:
Very intriguing, but I'm not convinced yet -- although I 'd be willing to try the Vicks steam inhaler :-) I use Zycam zinc lozenges and ...maybe...they help prevent or shorten my colds.
KarenTBTEN on December 21, 2010:
Great intro photo. I am thinking that the warmth and air might help nasal passages and feel good to one's aching joints, but I am having doubts about it actually curing it.
Joan Hall from Los Angeles on December 21, 2010:
I'd like to try a revolutionary approach I heard about that involves bed rest and drinking fluids. The only difficult part is figuring out how a working mom can get bed rest!