Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Common cold

Questions and Answers

I’ve often been tempted to try cold
cures that I see in advertisements.
Do these work?

There is no cure for a cold. Some
commercial products contain
antihistamines, which can reduce
secretions and help you sleep. But
a cold will always run its course.

My father always seems to have
more colds in the summer than in
the winter. Why is this?

He may have hay fever, which has
symptoms similar to those of the
cold virus. Such allergic reactions
are usually seasonal, except when
someone becomes allergic to
material that is present in the air
all year long, such as house dust.
In such cases it can be difficult,
without tests, to distinguish
between an allergy and a cold.

Are there any special foods I can
eat to protect myself from colds?

Some people feel that taking large
amounts of vitamin C, contained
in citrus fruits or ascorbic acid
preparations, provides some
protection—thus the old belief in
honey-and-lemon mixture.
However, experiments have not
yet proved that this helps.

I’ve heard that you can get a cold
by standing in a draft. Is this true?

No. But exposure to wet and
miserable weather may lower
your resistance, making it easier
for the cold virus to gain entry.

What is the difference between a
cold and the flu?

Flu involves a specific virus,
whereas a cold involves many
different viruses. Flu and colds
both have upper respiratory
symptoms, but flu symptoms
are more severe.

The common cold affects millions of people every year, particularly in the
winter months. Although research continues, so far no cure for the common
cold has ever been found
.

The common cold is not one disease, but many. They all have similar symptoms, all of which are caused by viruses that are transmitted to other people by hand contact, coughing, or sneezing.


Causes

There are at least 150 types of viruses that are known to produce the common cold. Antibiotics are of no use in treatment, nor are there yet any effective antiviral drugs.

Not only is the body faced with a bewildering variety of viruses, but these viruses are always likely to undergo DNA mutations, and no practical solution has yet been found to this very complex problem (see Genetics).


People at risk

The sick, the elderly, and the undernourished are not as good as healthy people at fighting infection, and so they are more susceptible to the ravages of the common cold. Young children, whose immune system has not come into contact with so many viruses (see Immune System), can suffer 20 or more such infections each year—as often happens when children start school.

Colds are caused by many
viruses, including the coronavirus
(below), and the symptoms of a cold
are very unpleasant (above)
.


Symptoms and dangers

The symptoms of the common cold are well known. The first sign is a feeling of being under the weather, which lasts a few hours. This is usually characterized by aching joints and a cold, shivery feeling (see Shivering). The body temperature is commonly subnormal at this stage; within the next few days—and sometimes hours—the body temperature goes up. A person may have a sore throat and generally feel miserable. As the throat begins to clear, the eyes and nose begin to stream, and there are bouts of repeated sneezing. For most people the common cold is a relatively trivial illness, lasting only a few days. However, it can be a serious matter for a person who suffers from bronchitis, especially if he or she is also a smoker (see Bronchitis).


Treatment

Unless complications like bronchitis develop, there is no need to call a doctor. The best plan is to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Acetaminophen or aspirin can help reduce a fever. Aspirin should not be given to children with viral infections—acetaminophen is safer.

See also:Aspirin and analgesics;
Coughing; Fevers; Infection and
infectious diseases; Joints; Nose;
Sneezing; Sore throat; Temperature;
Viruses

-396-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Bronchitis 294
  • Brucellosis 297
  • Bruises 298
  • Bunions 299
  • Burn Center 301
  • Burns 303
  • Burping 306
  • Bursitis 307
  • Calcium 310
  • Cancer 312
  • Capillaries 318
  • Cardiac Massage 320
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 322
  • Cartilage 324
  • Cataracts 326
  • Celiac Disease 329
  • Cells and Chromosomes 330
  • Cellular Telephones 333
  • Cerebral Palsy 335
  • Cervix and Cervical Smears 337
  • Cesarean Birth 340
  • Chat Room 343
  • Chelation Therapy 345
  • Chest 347
  • Chicken Pox 349
  • Child Abuse 351
  • Child Development 354
  • Chinese Medicine 358
  • Chiropractic 362
  • Cholera 365
  • Cholesterol 366
  • Chorionic Villus Sampling 367
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 369
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 370
  • Circulatory System 372
  • Circumcision 374
  • Cirrhosis 375
  • Cleft Palate 376
  • Cloning 377
  • Clubfoot 379
  • Cocaine and Crack 380
  • Cold Sores 382
  • Colon and Colitis 383
  • Colonic Irrigation 384
  • Colonoscopy 386
  • Color Blindness 388
  • Color Therapy 390
  • Colostomy 392
  • Coma 394
  • Common Cold 396
  • Complexes and Compulsions 397
  • Conception 399
  • Congenital Disorders 401
  • Conjunctivitis 403
  • Constipation 404
  • Contact Lenses 406
  • Contraception 407
  • Convalescence 412
  • Convulsions 413
  • Coordination 414
  • Cornea 416
  • Corns 417
  • Coronary Arteries and Thrombosis 419
  • Cosmetics 422
  • Cosmetic Surgery 424
  • Coughing 426
  • Cough Syrup 427
  • Counseling 428
  • Index 431
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