Common devil

Richa Shrestha


Common cold is undoubtedly the most widespread ailment and viral infection in the world with each adult suffering two to five colds each year while children average as much as seven to 10 colds. It can be defined as the contagious viral infections of the upper respiratory tract. Its ubiquitous presence in all seasons dispels the myth that it has mainly to do with being out in the cold too often.

There is little conclusive to prove that being chilled to the bone or being overheated stimulates the cold virus. Many studies have shown that volunteers who were wet and exposed to chilly conditions were no more prone to be affected by cold than the control groups in normal and warm conditions. However, psychological stress, exposure to second hand smoke, industrial smoke, allergic disorder may help increase the susceptibility to colds as they severely weaken the immune system.

Avoiding the cold altogether remains a Herculean task since it is not a single

disease in itself but a syndrome of symptoms caused by a string of viruses. It is primarily spread by Rhinovirus, which causes 30 to 40 per cent of all infections, and is active in autumn, spring and summer. Three hundred distinct viruses besides rhinovirus abet its quick spread. This explains the difficulty in prevention and also the impracticability of the idea of vaccines to eradicate it.

You’ve caught it

Its symptoms are familiar and many including headache, runny nose, a slight fever, throat irritation, nasal congestion, stuffy nose. The symptoms begin to appear from one to five days after you catch the cold virus and the early symptoms are mainly stuffy or runny nose, sneezing,

fatigue and can later display symptoms like progressive cough with phlegm in it. The symptoms also include muscular aches, lethargy and feeling just not well enough to do anything. Although not threatening on its own, a common cold can dramatically lower the body’s resistance to germs and other diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis.

Who and when

Although children are more prone to be affected, it is indiscriminate in its attacks and can hit you any time of the year. It’s a fallacy that cold weather breeds common cold. The very reason that many people stay indoors considerably a lot during chilly weather provides an opportunity for the rapid and easy transmission of the cold virus. Therefore, exposure to many hours of air-conditioners hardly has any bearing to your likelihood of catching a cold.

Beat it

Myriad are the suggested remedies to fight the villain and its host of symptoms. Bed rests, plenty of fluids, aspirins, chicken broth, keeping warm, inhaling steam, are all frequently recommended to battle colds. Zinc gluconate lozenges have been proved to be effective in reducing the duration of cold symptoms. Over the counter drugs and non-prescription cold remedies like decongestants and cold suppressants provide relief to certain extent from a few cold symptoms but will not entirely cure the cold or speed up recovery.

Moreover, they are likely to come at a price with drowsiness, dizziness and insomnia in certain cases. Antibiotics that are thrust to you over the counter should be particularly avoided unless a doctor specifically prescribes it to you for rare bacterial complications. It is to be noted that there is no cure for cold as such: only relief from certain symptoms.

Dr Uday Kumar Shrestha, MD, consultant cardiologist at Siddhartha Apollo Hospital says, “Since colds generally disappear on their own after seven to 10 days, tests are not always necessary. There is no need to panic for slight discomfort during

common cold and medical helps are rarely needed except in certain cases where the patients suffer from bronchitis or sinusitis. Just plenty of rest and fluids would cause relief and the symptoms will start to

diminish steadily in four to five days.

Doctors should be consulted in case of

the symptoms persisting or aggravating in five or six days.”

On the over-the-counter-drugs the patients use according to their judgements, Dr Shrestha says, “Paracetamol can be used to seek relief from the symptomatic problems and few decongestants do much harm. But just don’t go by whims and use antibiotics by any means as they are more harmful in the long run.”

Some fervently stress that runny noses and phlegm are body’s natural way of detoxification and claim that drugs must not suppress them as it impedes the body’s natural healing efforts. The symptoms are the body’s actual attempt of ridding itself of the viruses and to diminish the likely damages. For example, sneezing expels viruses from the nose, coughing from the lungs, mucus from the nose, and the mild fever tries to contain the virus from reproducing. Eventually, the immune system kicks out the virus completely. So to try and suppress the symptoms might actually work against you.

Ashish Karki an 18 year old going through yet another cold, argues, “What’s the point in seeing a doctor for a mere

cold when you know it will go away in a matter of days? You know you have been taught to use some decongestants, pop

in some aspirins and that’s what I do. I don’t know how effective the drugs really are but I feel better somehow or maybe I am imagining it.”

Advocates of Ayurveda hail the wonders of drinking half a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of lemon juice and one teaspoon of honey. Keeping head, feet and chest warm is advised whereas cold food, milk products, bread, meat and nuts and exposure to cold wind are to be steered clear of.

Homoeopathic doctors regard the cold symptoms as the body’s natural way of eliminating the virus and they hardly recommend any treatment to counter it.

Vitamin C was once considered a godsend to counter colds. Today, many are sceptic regarding its effectiveness scepticism since there is no definitive proof to support the claim.

Many research conducted in the past with control-subjects being given

placebos and test groups were given

Vitamin C: the results pointed out that both groups displayed similar recovery duration. On the contrary, large dosage of Vitamin C is likely to cause severe diarrhoea and is to be taken only after consulting your doctor.

It is always advisable to wash your hands regularly especially after coming in contact with a person infected with cold. Avoid touching the eyes and nose after you touch something contaminated by infected nasal secretions. Isolating family member affected with cold for at least three days, when the cold is the most contagious, is a wise move. So is disinfecting commonly touched and shared surfaces.

A seemingly harmless sneeze may contain cold virus in the form of tiny droplets; therefore, using a tissue paper to cough and sneeze and disposing of it immediately should be given paramount importance. Keep away from large gatherings especially indoors, exercise regularly to boost your immune system and build your resistance to colds. Abundant rest and adequate sleep while recovering helps the immune system to strengthen itself.

Eight to 10 glasses of fluid and a

balanced diet are effective while abstaining from alcohol and smoking is the

unwritten law for being back on your tracks soon. Although you may not be able to beat the sneaky culprit, you can recover the healthy way.