Healthy Outlook – NOVEMBER – The Uncommon Common Cold
The Uncommon Common Cold
A runny nose, scratchy throat, and nonstop sneezing – you can’t miss the signs of a cold. But mystery shrouds a lot of other things about it. Why do you seem to get them so often while your friend stays well? And more importantly, how can you stay healthy this year?
What is it?
It’s an illness caused by a tiny living thing called a virus. More than 200 types lead to your misery, but the most common one is the rhinovirus, which is thought to be responsible for at least 50% of the colds.
How does it start?
You can catch it from another person who is infected with the virus. This can happen through direct physical contact or by touching a surface contaminated with their germs, like a computer keyboard, doorknob or spoon and then by touching your nose or mouth. You can also catch it from infected droplets in the air released by a sneeze or a cough.
A cold begins when a virus attaches to the lining of your nose or throat. Your immune system sends out white blood cells to attack this invader. Unless you’ve had a run-in with that exact strain of the virus before, the initial attack fails and your body sends in reinforcements. Your nose and throat get inflamed and make a lot of mucus. With so much of your energy directed at fighting the cold virus, you are left feeling tired and miserable.
- Scratchy or a sore throat
- Stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Mucus draining from your nose into your throat
*more severe symptoms such as high fever or muscle aches, may be a sign that you have the flu rather than a cold. Colds last approximately 7 to 10 days and prolonged symptoms may also be an indicator of something other than a cold.
Cold remedies are almost as common as the common cold, but are they effective? Nothing can cure a cold, but there are some remedies that might help ease your symptoms and keep yours from feeling so miserable.
Stay Hydrated – Water, juice, broth (ah chicken soup), lemon water, all help loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated beverages as they can contribute to dehydration.
Rest – Your body needs to heal
Sooth a sore throat – warm salt water gargle, ice chips, throat sprays, lozenges may give some relief.
Add moister to the air – a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier can add moisture to your home which might help loosen congestion.
Vitamin C, Echinacea, and Zinc – Vitamin C is not stored in your body so you need to ingest it throughout the day to support your immune system. Among its other many benefits getting adequate amounts of vitamin C may reduce how many colds you experience each year. Echinacea is a plant that can be dried and put into supplements or used fresh. It may help prevent or treat the common cold by boosting your immune system, although research is ongoing. Echinacea is a natural safe herb with relatively few side effects. Zinc is a powerful mineral that you only need in small amounts each day. Taking zinc in a supplement or as a lozenge helps keep your immune system functioning at its best. Zinc can prevent cold germs from replicating in your body and may help reduce inflammation, reports the Office of Dietary Supplements.
The bottom line
Although there is no cure for the common cold there are things you can do to stay healthy and to boost your immune system that may shorten the life of your cold and will certainly make it bearable rather than miserable.