Common Cold

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What causes a cold?

As many as 100 viruses may produce the symptoms. Some of the viruses produce minor illnesses in children and adults but occasionally critical illnesses in infants (less than 6 months or born premature). All of these viruses seem able to alter their characteristics from season to season.

The true cold is an infection caused by one or more viruses. Only in highly susceptible persons are bacteria likely to act with such viruses. The bacterial effect may be either general intensification of symptoms or a complication such as a sinus or ear infection.

How do you catch a cold?

Traditionally, colds have been considered highly communicable. Current research seems to indicate that colds are harder to spread than have been thought. In a controlled study, close contact for several hours was necessary before cross infection occurred. New colds appear to be more contagious than older ones. Children’s colds have been shown to be more contagious than those of adults. Often, apparently healthy persons seem to harbor cold viruses without obvious clinical symptoms. They may be a source for colds in others who apparently have had no contact with a cold.

Low temperatures and inclement weather in themselves probably have little to do with precipitating colds. Sudden changes in temperatures seem more significant. Dampness and chill have been suspected in causing colds, but experimental evidence now indicates that they are probably only triggering factors. The relative humidity of the air we breathe may be important, however.

There is a sharp rise in the incidence of colds at the time the winter heating season begins. The lower humidity in heated rooms causes dry nose and throat which contributes to susceptibility to infection. The nose, throat, and lungs work better when the air that is breathed has a relative humidity of about 45%. If moisture is not supplied to this degree, it will be absorbed into the heated air from the mucus membranes lining the respiratory system. Dry mucus membranes cannot clean themselves by bronchial cilia, the hair like structures that move mucus upward out of the respiratory tract. As a result, they become more vulnerable to invasion by cold viruses. A relative humidity of homes and offices as near 45% as possible appears to be a useful preventive measure.

What to do for a cold?

The old adage is true that colds last about 7-10 days. No specific treatments so far available is effective against the cold virus. Any treatment must be directed towards relief of symptoms and prevention of complications. The wonder drugs – antibiotics – have no effect on viruses and should only be used when medically necessary for the control of complicating bacterial infections. Antihistamine drugs should be used only when there is an allergy complicating the cold.

  • Drinking extra fluids
  • Rest
  • Increasing the humidity with a cool mist vaporizer help (to get above 45%)
  • Young children with lots of congestion should have nasal suction after salt water drops. (Nasal decongestants are dangerous)

Are there any possible alternatives? Yes, maybe.

A recommended Herbal medicine is Echinacea, three to four times a day. It is extremely safe. Studies are still pending that are good. Ginger may also be helpful when you have a cold. Mega vitamin C has too many side effects for kids. Last but not least is “Chicken Soup” but you must breath the vapors.

Call our office immediately if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing (unrelated to nasal congestion)
  • Your child is extremely sick or doesn’t respond to you

Call for appointment or advice if:

  • Your child acts like they may have an ear infection
  • Your child’s skin under the nose is raw or cracked
  • Your child has had the runny nose for greater than 10-14 days
  • Your child gets a new fever >101