Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nasty, miserable colds...

The common cold – no matter what the time of year – anyone can catch the common cold. As many people say, you’d think with all the discoveries we have, someone could come up with a cure for the cold.

Colds are caused by viruses but there are so many that cause colds, to come up with a vaccine is not easy. When someone has a cold, it’s spread through droplets from sneezing or from contact. It can take about 12 hours from the time you’ve been exposed to the cold virus to the time that you start having symptoms.

The symptoms, which we’ve all experienced, usually start with a scratchy or sore throat. Some people feel a pressure in their sinuses. The symptoms increase and get stronger as the virus takes hold: runny and/or nose, cough, sore throat, and sneezing. There shouldn’t be a fever though – that’s one of the differences between a cold and influenza (the flu).

Colds are generally benign, meaning they don’t cause any harm, but some people do end up with long-lasting or serious effects because of colds. This is why there is a lot of work being done to try to prevent or cure colds. While most people do experience discomfort, they know that their cold will only last a few days and then it’s back to normal. However, for asthmatics, for example, catching a cold could mean an acute flare up of the asthma and a long recovery. Other people with lower immune systems or respiratory illnesses can develop pneumonia and, unfortunately, pneumonia can have very serious consequences. Many babies develop ear infections after colds, causing pain and misery for both child and parent.

The best way to treat a cold is to prevent it from starting in the first place. As your mother probably taught you when you were a child, washing your hands is the first and best defence. When you’re out in public, avoid touching your face with your hands. If you’ve been exchanging money or touching objects, it is possible that you have picked up a cold virus. So, the best thing to do is to wash your hands the moment you get home – this will keep the virus out of your house as much as possible. Don’t rely on antibacterial hand cleansers for cold prevention. When you wash your hands, it’s as much the action of washing (rubbing your hands together with the soap and water) as it is the actual product you use.

Once you’ve caught a cold, there are many products that people claim can help shorten the cold, or keep it from taking hold. Echinacea is in the news again since the Lancet, a medical journal, published study findings that taking Echinacea can reduce the risk of developing a cold by almost 60%, and if the cold has taken hold, it can shorten the duration of the cold by about a day and a half. They also point out that one study they looked at found that if you combined Echinacea with vitamin C, the risk of developing the cold rose to 85%. Other studies haven’t confirmed these findings, but perhaps this is a start.

Be careful though. Although Echinacea is an herb, a natural product, that doesn’t mean that everyone can or should take it. After all, many poisons are also natural products. Be aware that some people are allergic to Echinacea so watch for signs for allergies. These include rashes and worsening of asthma symptoms. If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies, you may be allergic to Echinacea as well.

Be sure that your doctor knows you are taking Echinacea as this could affect some treatments.

Besides Echinacea, there are other treatments that people swear by. They include large doses of vitamin C for the first 24 hours, special herbal preparations and zinc.

Whatever you try, there is an old saying that says “An untreated cold lasts 7 days, a treated one a week.”

Colds are miserable, so if you ever find the cure, you’re sure to have the gratitude of millions of people.

Today’s news:

Echinacea halves risk of catching cold: review
Staph superbug may be infecting 10 times more patients in U.S.
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Tougher on Arteries
Self-hypnosis helps kids with frequent headaches
Colonoscopy more often successful in mornings

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