COLD, THE COMMON

Each time we have a ‘common cold’ it could be due to one of a hundred or so different viruses. These spread from person to person by so-called ‘droplet infection’ – passed on when the sufferer coughs or sneezes, for example. Colds aren’t caused by getting wet or cold, but infection is more likely to catch hold if the body’s resistance is reduced by chronic illness, fatigue, stress or depression.

Any immunity we develop after catching a particular cold virus is short-lived and may not protect against further infection, as the viruses ‘going around’ tend to change constantly and none of them can be ‘cured’ by medicines. They can be fought and destroyed only by your bod/s natural defences. So those of us who mix with people regularly can expect to meet and succumb to two or three colds a year.

Typical cold symptoms will be familiar to nearly everyone – the streaming eyes, running and/or blocked-up nose, headache and dry, tickly cough. But although, singly or in combination, they can be very unpleasant, they’ll normally improve within a few days and for a straightforward cold, it’s not usually necessary to consult a doctor.

If you have a cold, drink plenty of fluids, take aspirin or paracetamol to relieve feverish symptoms – paracetamol is best for children . Tepid sponging may cool and soothe children. As long as they have plenty of liquids, don’t worry too much if they refuse to eat – their appetites recover very quickly. But do call your doctor if your child develops a high fever, persistent coughing, wheezing, earache or sickness.

For adults, of course, there’s a bewildering array of over-the-counter preparations for the common cold. While you cannot treat the virus itself and the ‘cold cures’ won’t speed up recovery, you can get some relief from the effects by taking a mild painkiller as mentioned above, or you can try one of the many cold treatments available these days -which normally contain aspirin or paracetamol anyway. Always follow instructions strictly and never take more than one product at a time.

This is most important since a medicine like paracetamol can build up in the body if you continue to take it over many days or even weeks – you are effectively taking an overdose. And though it’s very rare, such a build-up can occasionally cause a tragedy.

Both aspirin and paracetamol will bring down a temperature as well as relieving pain. Other ingredients of cold treatments are likely to be a decongestant to relieve nasal congestion or catarrh, an antihistamine to control the allergic-like symptoms of a cold – streaming eyes, for instance – and sometimes the stimulant caffeine. Many also contain Vitamin C, which some people feel is beneficial.

Many cold-sufferers take large doses of Vitamin C, but I’ve never seen any evidence that it does any good. In fact, I think that if you take extra Vitamin C, your cold may go in seven days. Without it, it could take as long as a week! Fortunately, it is one of the vitamins which can be taken in large doses without apparent harm, but why take the risk? It really depends on what you feel about it. You pays your money or you takes your chance, and I prefer to take my chance.

Bear in mind that some over-the-counter cold cures may be unwise for pregnant women, for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or thyroid disease and stomach ulcers. As with all medicines, if you do have any medical condition, or are taking other medicines, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking self-medication.

Some products may cause drowsiness, too. If you are affected, do not drive or operate machinery and avoid alcoholic drink. Children taking medicines which may make them drowsy should never be left on their own, except in a safe place – like bed.

There are occasions, however, when you may need to consult a doctor about your cold. If symptoms persist, or if you already have a chest condition – chronic bronchitis, for example – it is best to see your doctor at the first sign of a cold or flu. You may need antibiotics to prevent the development of secondary bacterial infections which could cause further lung damage.

As well as those with existing chest problems or heart disorders, the very young and the very old are especially at risk from complications as a result of a cold or similar infection. They should be watched carefully in case their symptoms worsen. The ageing immune (disease-fighting) system is less effective at combating infection and the elderly are therefore particularly vulnerable.

So how will you know when to call a doctor? Coughing up green, as opposed to clear, sputum is a sure sign that a secondary bacterial infection has developed and antibiotics may then be helpful. Likewise if the cough is very bad. Other symptoms to watch for include streaks of blood in the sputum, breathlessness, wheezing (which may indicate asthma), croup, ‘tightness’ or pain in the chest and blueness around the lips.

It is also wise to consult a doctor if the patient’s temperature, pulse and breathing rate rise and he or she seems generally unwell. Elderly people can develop pneumonia quite untypically, by suddenly becoming confused but having only minor chest symptoms, so be on the look out for this and call the doctor without delay if you are concerned. In fact, real concern is a good criterion for asking a doctor’s opinion in any circumstances – if only for reassurance – and this applies as much to symptoms associated with the ‘common cold’ as to anything else.

What’s Available?

Actifed Syrup or Tablets, Benylin Day and Night Cold Treatment, Benylin Mentholated Linctus, Bronalin Dry Cough Elixir, Bronalin Paediatric Linctus, Bronchial Catarrh Pastilles, Catarrh-Ex, Coldrex Tablets and Hot Drinks, Contac 400, Cupal Baby Chest Rub, Dimotapp Elixir, Dimotapp Elixir Paediatric, Dimotapp L. A., Fennings Lemon-Flavoured Mixture, Flurex Bedtime Medicine, Flurex Hot Lemon Syrup, Flurex Tablets or Capsules, Junior Lemsip, Lemsip, Lemsip Cold Relief Capsules, Odourless Garlic One-A-Day, Sanatogen One-A-Day Garlic Perles, Snuffle Babe, Vapex Inhalant, Vicks Coldcare, Vicks Vapo-Lem, Vicks Vapo Rub

Recommendeds

Benylin Day and Night Cold Treatment, Actifed, Contac 400, Vicks Vapo Rub Homoeopathic Remedies

Aconite, Gelsemium, Merc. Sol., Nat. Mur.

Herbal Remedies

During the last few years an enormous amount of research into garlic’s health-promoting proper-ties and its chemistry has resulted in renewed interest in the way it can help the body’s natural systems. Taken as a regular part of the daily diet garlic may help to maintain a healthy heart and circulation. It is also used as a herbal remedy for the relief of catarrh and symptoms of rhinitis and of the common cold.

Herbelix Specific, Hofels Garlic Perles and One-A-Day Garlic Perles, Hofels Garlic Parsley Tablets, Lustys Garlic Perles, Olbas Pastilles, Shen Chinese Garlic Tablets, Cir-kulin Garlic Pearls

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