It’s that time of year again, our old friend the common cold is back working overtime to ruin as many of our days as possible.
In an effort to combat colds here’s some tips for avoiding and/or dealing with it once you get it, so just lie back and relax, you might feel a little prick…
What are they?
The cause is usually a viral infection that causes inflammation of your nose, throat and sinuses. Colds aren’t dangerous to most people, but they can be a real pain in the arse, even though they last only a few days. Unfortunately, once you’ve got it you can’t do much about it.
Who gets them?
Everyone. But they thrive in winter because we herd indoors and the virus gets passed on much more easily. Kids are crammed full with viruses, and adults who are in contact with kids, such as teachers, are more prone to colds. People who smoke, have diabetes, impaired immunity or asthma are more likely to develop more serious conditions such as pneumonia from colds.
Can I avoid them?
You could always seal yourself off from society, or maybe live permanently inside a zorbing ball, but if that’s not an option, well, there’s nothing you can do. It’s up to the ‘infected’ to contain it by covering their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, washing their hands, and staying off work or school until they have got their streaming nose under control – just generally being decent humans.
How can I protect myself?
There is no vaccine as common colds are caused by numerous viruses and often, no particular virus is found, so developing a vaccine is almost impossible. Over the years there have been various supplements suggested to stave off the bug – zinc, garlic, vitamins C & D and echinacea – but there is no good evidence that they protect you either, although there is a little to suggest that they can reduce the length and severity of colds.
What should I do if I get one?
Most people get over a cold in a few days, so just rest, drink plenty of fluids and try not to spread it to others. According to The Guardian, Professor Bruce Arroll of the University of Auckland in New Zealand says:
There’s limited evidence for paracetamol, but anti-inflammatories do have some general benefits for aches and pains. Oral and nasal decongestants probably work, although the evidence is low-quality and Vicks in children is probably OK.
Will there be a cure for colds in my lifetime?
Probably not. There has been some enthusiasm for the antiviral drug, interferon, delivered as a nasal spray. But due to relatively severe flu-like side-effects it may be overkill. Better to just suck it up and ride out the cold probably. Antibiotics are a no, as they don’t kill viruses.
Very occasionally, colds can develop into more serious issues which may require antibiotics so if after a few days you’re symptoms are getting worse or you experience things like weight loss, high fever or coughing blood, you should definitely see your GP for further investigation.
So overall, the best advice is to keep the hell away from anyone you think might be infected and if you do get a cold, deal with it. Surgery hours are over.