Myths & Truths About the Common Cold - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/30/04

Myths & Truths About the Common Cold

Get ready. It is here. Cold season is upon us. People in the US will suffer about 1 billion colds each year. As you have probably noticed, kids get more colds - 6 to 10 a year. Adults average 2 to 4 a year while people over 60 may only have 1 or 2.

Colds are caused by a virus which is deposited on a cell within the nose. It only takes 1 to 30 viruses to get the infection started. The virus get through the mucus lining of the nose, enters the cells and starts to multiply. In 8 to 12 hours, the cell dies and ruptures, setting many viruses free to start the process in other cells.

There are more than 200 viruses that cause colds. Rhino viruses, the most common cause are responsible for about a third of colds. Corona viruses are believed to be involved most often in adult colds.

The symptoms that we most commonly associate with colds-the runny nose, increased mucus-are most likely due to the immune response of the body, trying to fight off the invading viruses.

Since viruses can live on surfaces for up to three hours, hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of colds. A sneeze will propel viruses into the air where they can be picked up by another nose so using a tissue to cover your nose and then throwing it away is another good preventive action.

You do not get a cold because you get chilled. This is probably the most common misconception. In about 95% of people exposed to a cold virus, the virus will multiply and they technically 'have a cold.' But 25% of those infected will not get symptoms. The symptoms are the result of our immune system trying to fight off the infection.

We have all heard that dry air increases our risk of colds. This is another of those myths. While slow humidity may make the nose feel scratchy, the mucus membranes continue to do their work. And drinking milk does not make cold symptoms worse.

Blowing your nose can aggravate symptoms since it may force secretions into the sinuses and Eustachian tubes to the ears and make them susceptible to infection.

What should an adult do to treat a cold?

  1. Treat at the first sign of a cold coming on.
  2. Take a first generation antihistamine to reduce the inflammatory response. These are the type that make you sleepy.
  3. Take over-the counter NSAIDS or anti-inflammatory drugs according to directions.
  4. Take decongestants but be careful if you have high blood pressure because they can aggravate it.
  5. Use cough suppressants as needed.
  6. Anticholinergics may be used to reduce the amount of mucus or 'dry you out.'
  7. Echinacea does not appear to prevent or reduce cold symptoms. Zinc has been shown to shorten colds but may also cause stomach symptoms and loss or smell and taste.
  8. Colds last from 10 days to two weeks. In the meantime, some homemade chicken soup may make you feel better.

Finally, save your money. Don't bother to call your doctor, because he does not have any miracle pills to cure you.

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