- Dr. Alpana Utture
M.D. (Ped.s) DM (Neonatology)
At sometime or another, every one of us succumbs to the common cold. The bravest and the strongest are virtues that matter not to these viruses as they set about reducing us to coughing, sneezing shadows of our former selves. Research has shown that the external wintry environment of November, December and January, leaves us prone to frequently falling prey to these viruses. To find out more about colds, read on...
What is a Cold?
The common cold is a contagious viral infection of the upper respiratory tract affecting the nose and the throat. A large variety of viruses cause the common cold and that is why the body is less likely to develop immunity against them. Colds are most frequent among school-going children but their incidence lessens with age. The average child gets a cold more than eight times a year. This is because there are hundreds of different viruses and young children encounter each one of them for the first time. Gradually the human body builds up immunity and we get fewer colds.
How do you catch a Cold?
- Sneezing or coughing by a person suffering from a cold transmits the infection through air.
- Physical contact with objects, such as a doorknob or a telephone, contaminated with the viruses spread the infection.
You're probably getting a Cold
- If you have a "tickle" in your throat, a runny or stuffy nose and sneezing;
- If you suffer from a headache;
- If you have a mild fever;
- If you have muscle aches, body aches and feel fatigued and
- If you suffer from loss of appetite.
Colds usually last for five to seven days. A common cold is caused by viruses and cannot be cured by antibiotics. Medicines used for a cold, like syrups and tablets, are meant to provide only temporary relief from symptoms and cannot cure a cold. However, below are some tips to help you get through a cold quickly and more comfortably.
Tips to Fight a Cold
Consult your doctor if the cold is accompanied by high fever or if the cold persists beyond one week as this may be because of a more serious infection.
- Midnight Medicine. Rubs containing natural ingredients like Pudina (Menthol), Kapoor (Camphor) and Nilgiri (Eucalyptus Oil) such as Vicks VapoRub, relieve congestion and help you breathe more easily. It also has a soothing and cooling effect. They are especially effective in children and help them sleep well at night.
- Steam Inhalation. This is an excellent method for opening blocked nasal passages. Fill a bowl with steaming water. Add two teaspoonfuls of a mentholated rub and gently inhale the steaming mentholated vapours. But closely supervise children to avoid scalding.
- Drink Extra Fluids such as water, juices (orange, grapefruit), tea, to replace fluids lost during the illness. Also eat fresh fruit rich in Vitamin C like citrus fruits.
- Take extra rest as it helps your body fight the infection.
- Keep a positive attitude as it can heal and mobilize the immune system.
- In case of fever associated with a cold, a regular paracetamol should help.
Additionally, colds are a viral infection and do not need as much internal treatment as externally safe and effective medication. As mentioned earlier, products with natural ingredients like Pudina (Menthol), Kapoor (Camphor) and Nilgiri (Eucalyptus Oil), such as Vicks VapoRub are useful. Pudina opens a blocked nose, Kapoor acts as a mild analgesic to soothe body aches and Nilgiri calms cough. Products with such natural ingredients have proved effective for millions of Indians over the last 50 years.
Special tips for Diabetics, high blood pressure sufferers and pregnant women
If you are a diabetic or suffer from high blood pressure, you may already be taking internal medicine for your condition. In such a situation, when you are suffering from a cold, externally applied cold rubs do not interfere with your medicine. For pregnant women who do not want to take internal medicine for fear of side effects on the child, cold rubs are again an effective alternative.
So, get set to enjoy the winter and don't let the viruses get the better of you.