A Cold is a contagious infection of the upper respiratory airways caused by a virus.
The Common Cold, also known as an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), is caused by many different viruses. There are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold, but the most common ones are rhinoviruses. After suffering a Cold, the body develops immunity to that particular virus. If a person is exposed to the same virus again, they may not catch a Cold, or may only develop mild symptoms. However, because there are so many cold-causing viruses, most people will never develop complete immunity against the common Cold, making it one of the most prevalent illnesses in society. The average adult may suffer up to five Colds in a year.
Colds are transmitted by inhaling tiny droplets breathed out from the nose or mouth of an infected person. The virus can also be transmitted by direct contact with contaminated secretions on the hands or by sharing eating utensils. You cannot catch a Cold simply by being in cold weather - the virus must be present to enter the body.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms first appear between 24 and 72 hours after exposure to the virus and include:
- Discomfort in the nose or throat.
- General feeling of being unwell.
- Runny nose which is watery and clear at first and later becomes thicker, opaque and yellow-green.
- Many people also develop a cough.
- A slight fever may be present when symptoms first appear.
Symptoms usually disappear in 4-10 days, although a cough may last up to two weeks.
Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice. If the Cold symptoms are severe or persist for longer than two weeks, seek medical advice.
- There is no specific cure for a Cold. Antibiotics are not used as they are only effective against bacterial infections.
- Psychological stress can worsen Cold symptoms. Talk to your Doctor about stress management.
- Smoking can worsen the duration and severity of symptoms.
- Handwashing is essential to prevent further spread of the virus.
- Use tissues, rather than handkerchiefs and dispose of them as soon as they are used.
- Do not share cups, eating utensils or cigarettes. Avoid close contact with children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Savoury soups with plenty of vegetables are recommended. The fluid intake combined with warmth helps loosen up thick secretions. Avoid soups based on milk or cream as these will thicken mucus production.
- Avoid foods that aggravate the cough reflex. Dry biscuits and spicy or very sweet foods may promote coughing while liquids tend to have a soothing action.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep the mouth and throat moist and prevent dehydration. Water, dilute fruit juice, soup and herbal tea are good choices.
- Foods high in vitamins A, C, E and zinc may help the body to combat infections. Citrus fruits as well as red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are high in these vitamins.
- Garlic and onions should be eaten regularly to help shift mucus and boost immunity. Garlic has natural antibiotic properties which is thought to be useful in combating infections.
Supplements may only be of value if dietary intake is inadequate.
- Vitamin C is associated with healthy immune function.
- Zinc supports immune function and may have antiviral effects.
- Echinacea can reduce the duration of cold symptoms and assist in prevention of colds.
- Garlic is reputed to have anti-bacterial properties, along with immune enhancing activity.
- Astragalus may assist in preventing the common cold.
The listed essential oils are suggested for the temporary relief of the symptoms of Colds. The most specific oils are shown in capitals.
- Aniseed, Basil, Citronella, EUCALYPTUS, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lime, Myrrh, Orange, Peppermint, PINE, TEA TREE, THYME.
- MASSAGE: Blend any single listed essential oil or combination of several essential oils - 5 drops (total) to 10mL (1/3 fl oz) vegetable carrier oil such as Sweet Almond, Apricot Kernel. Apply twice daily to chest, upper back and throat with gentle massage.
- STEAM INHALATION: In a bowl containing one litre of steaming water, add 5 drops (total) of essential oil; cover head with towel and inhale while leaning over bowl. Keep eyes closed.
- VAPORISATION: Add 5 drops( total) single essential oil or combination of several essential oils listed to water in oil burner
Ask your Pharmacist for advice:
- Follow the Diet Hints
- Ask your Pharmacist for Cold tablets, lozenges or cough mixtures, which may relieve the Cold symptoms.
- There are inhalants and nasal sprays available from your Pharmacy. These are used to help clear nasal congestion. Ask your Pharmacist for suggestions.
- If a fever - adults is present take paracetamol or aspirin. Do not give aspirin to children under 12 years because of possible side effects.
- Excessive fatigue can increase the risk of infection. Rest helps with the recovery process.
- Reduce or stop smoking. Ask your Pharmacist about anti-smoking products.
- Use an antibacterial handwash to prevent spreading the virus.
- Consider some nutritional supplements if the dietary vitamin intake is inadequate.