~ Winning the Battle of the 'Cold' War

Electrical Apparatus, 01-19-06

Originally Published:20060101.

YOU'VE HAD YOUR flu shot but you are still wheezy, stuffy, sneezy, and achy. Your nose is running its own type of marathon, you are coughing like a barking circus seal, and your throat is as scratchy as a Brillo pad.

It's winter, what did you expect?

But don't blame the ice, snow, frigid temperatures, and the wind chill factor. What you have is a cold, the most common illness known to man. If you want to impress your co-workers with your medical acumen, tell them you are suffering from "infectious nasopharyngitis."

Adults typically average two to four colds annually, according to the American Medical Association and the National Institutes of Health. There is no known cure, so prevention is the best defense.

Colds are respiratory illnesses primarily caused by rhino-viruses (rhin is Greek for "nose"), of which there are at least 100 different strains and perhaps as many as 200. Fight off one and just when you are feeling better another sets up shop in your nasal passages.

People get more colds in wintry weather then in summer because they spend more time indoors rubbing elbows with co-workers, friends, and family who already have colds, and moisture-less humidity-free air dries up their airways, making them vulnerable to airborne viruses that invade bodily defenses and come under a counterattack by the immune system.

Your runny nose and watery eyes are a result of your white blood cells attacking the rhinovirus.

What should you do if you catch one? Here are some recommendations that may provide relief.
  • Get lots of rest. But not on the job.

  • Eat chicken soup. A University of Nebraska study indicated chicken soup is not just a Jewish mother's nostrum but can actually blockade the movement of white blood cells into the bronchial tubes.

  • Think zinc. Start sucking on zinc lozenges, as zinc can cut the legs out from under a cold, reducing its duration by half.

  • Drink fluids. They can help minimize congestion and replenish fluids lost by fever-induced sweating. Eschew coffee and milk in favor of juices, herbal teas, and water.

  • Take garlic capsules. Not only can garlic ward off vampires but it is said to help shorten the duration of colds. Much of its effectiveness may be in keeping cold sufferers and their rhinoviruses at bay.

  • Seek Vitamin C. An immunity-enhancer, vitamin C may not be able to keep the "rhinos" from camping out in your nose, but it may ease the severity of their charge. Foods that are chock full of vitamin C include strawberries, cantaloupe, oranges, peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli.

  • Practice hygiene. You don't have to don latex gloves and a face mask, but you should wash your hands frequently and thoroughly to remove any germs you might have picked up off doorknobs and shared equipment. When you can, gargle with warm salt water.

  • Try OTC pills. Over-the-counter, non-prescription cold medications may help you get OTC (Over The Cold). Antibiotics, however, will not, as colds are not caused by bacteria.

  • Exploit Echinacea. This herb is a staple preventative in the German pharmacopeia for both colds and the flu. It stimulates production and activity of immune cells that eat invading organisms. Not a miracle cure, but taken regularly it may kill a cold before it gets started. In the 19th century, echinacea was the most widely used plant drug in the U.S.

  • Enjoy elderberry. It not only makes a good wine but has proved effective against colds. A virus inhibitor, it has been used in Europe for centuries as a cure for the sniffles.
How can you tell if you have the flu rather than a cold?

Both are caused by viruses, but influenza is far more severe and prolonged. While colds usually last no more than four to 10 days, flu can make you miserable from 14 to 40 days. Cold symptoms are more annoying than anything else, but flu victims suffer from high fevers0 -102F or higher-along with severe bodily aches, headaches, fatigue, and sore throat.

If you only have a cough, chances are you have a cold. But if the cough is accompanied by a fever, then you have the flu.

The flu can be dangerous. It can lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma, and it can sometimes prove fatal. About 20,000 Americans, mostly elderly, are killed by influenza annually.

While colds show no mercy-affecting everyone at one time or another-the flu normally attacks no more than 10%-20% of the population.

Although there is no vaccine to defend against the common cold, flu vaccines are developed annually, and when administered in October or November they can prevent the flu or lessen its severity.

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