According to the National Institutes of Health, at any second of any hour of any day, one out of every three Americans is down with the inflamed respiratory tract, the low-level fever, and the general fatigue symptomatic of what is commonly known as the common cold.
Which means, statistically speaking, that there’s a 33 1/3 percent chance that you’re suffering from a cold right this minute.
Your body aches, your head throbs, your nose and lungs are congested, your throat is sore, your energy level is low, and your disposition is bad.
The Cold Facts
Considering how many of us are affected by the common cold, it’s surprising how few of us know anything about it….
A cold is a virus-caused inflammation of the upper respiratory tract – specifically, the membranes of the nose and throat; and also, in many cases, the chest area and inner or outer membranes of the ear. To date, more than two hundred viruses are known to be potential causes of the cold, which is a temporary (though intense) discomfort. Perhaps as much as 45 percent of all cold infections are caused by one particular virus, called rhinovirus. Regardless of which virus is responsible, however, the symptoms of the cold -stuffiness, congestion, throat irritation, etc.- remain the same.
What’s so common about the common cold? For one thing, the cold is an infection common to just about all of us. Few people are immune to the miseries of the common cold. According to statistics, some 95 percent of Americans get a cold at least two or three times each year. More than half of our visits to the doctor’s office are due to colds. We spend more than two billion dollars annually on cold treatments; and we lose as much as four times that amount yearly because of lost workdays.
Another reason for the “common” in the common cold is that – unlike many other ailments – the symptoms are typically the same for all victims. In other words, when it comes to the miseries of the common cold, we’re all miserable in the same miserable way.
Are certain people more susceptible to colds than others?
Yes. Those of us most likely to catch the most colds include:
-Children of both sexes under age six.
-Parents of young children.
-Young women (probably with young children).
-People of both sexes who don’t exercise regularly.
How are colds transmitted? Mostly, believe it or not, by hand. Viruses are mainly spread this way. We cover our faces to cough, viruses cling to the skin of our hands; then we touch something, someone else touches it, and the cold is passed on.
Breathing in the same air used by a cold-infectious person – or sometimes even a pet -also can transmit the common cold. Overwork, too much stress, and too little physical exercise can so weaken us that our resistance to invasion by the viruses is significantly lowered.
Are colds seasonal? To some extent yes. Studies indicate that we get more colds in the winter. This isn’t because of the cold weather, though – at least not directly. Colds aren’t caused by cold weather. Cold weather, however, does tend to keep us indoors. And in the close confinement of warm (thus virus-encouraging) rooms, we breathe in the same air as many other people, thereby increasing our exposure to the various cold viruses.
But, even though we tend to get more colds in the winter, we can just as readily catch one in the spring and summer. When it comes to climatic conditions, the common cold is a disease for all seasons.
Commonly Asked Questions Regarding the Cold
What symptoms can I expect – and when can I expect them?
The Three Basic Stages of a Cold are:
1. Fatigue, sneezing and the sniffles. These are the warning signs of the developing cold and will last 24 to 36 hours.
2. Runny nose and aches. Your cold has now begun. Welcome to hard times. These symptoms will last for the next 24 to 48 hours.
3. Chills, sore throat, congestion and possible fever. Your cold is in full miserable bloom now and will continue to flower for at least 48 hours.
Are colds dangerous? No, in itself the common cold is not a seriously debilitating or life-threatening ailment. It does, however, weaken your body, making you especially vulnerable to more serious respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and certain viral strains of influenza.
If colds aren’t dangerous, why do they make me feel so miserable? Actually, the cold virus – which feeds on healthy body cells – does not make you feel particularly uncomfortable. It is the healing process that causes you so much misery. Congestion, for instance, is the result of a blanket of mucous produced by your body. The mucous contains chemicals that can destroy cold viruses. The general fatigue and lethargy you feel during a cold is also part of the healing process: it’s a call from your body for you to rest. By minimizing activities, you allow your body to concentrate its energy on getting better. As for inflammation – particularly throat inflammation – this is the body’s natural response to infection. The pain it causes is an unpleasant but necessary side effect to inflammation’s actual purpose: to prevent the spread of infection to other, still healthy areas and to produce body chemicals that clean away the remaining infection. Chills and body aches result from your blood being rerouted to the cold-affected areas. This causes a severe blood temperature drop in tissues and muscles, a drop that causes minor muscle aches and a chilling effect. So you can console yourself with the thought that the worse a cold makes you feel, the closer you’re coming to getting rid of it.
How long will that take? Untreated, the common cold generally takes about seven days to run its course. Treated, it can be over within one to three days. The most extreme cold symptoms usually will last no longer than 72 hours.
How long will I remain contagious? For the first two to three days of your cold, you are extremely contagious. (Colds are considered to be one of the most infectious of all human diseases.) Once the inflammation and congestion disappear, the typical cold can no longer be transmitted. Even so, some caution about exposure should be observed.
Is there such a thing as immunity from a cold? There are variations in degree of susceptibility, but for all practical purposes there is no such thing as total immunity. Although our bodies produce antibodies – chemical substances designed to destroy invading viruses – there are simply too many kinds of potential cold viruses to fight off. Nor is there any truth in the belief than one cold will make you immune to other colds.
Are colds ever psychosomatic? Yes, they can be, especially in the following sense. Research shows that unusual stress not only depresses the mind but also reduces the body’s immune system. Thus tension, anxiety, a worried mind can – like fifth columnists – aid the cold virus in its attempted invasion of your cells and tissues.
Just because you have a cold doesn’t mean you have to be miserably sick. Proper treatment can make life with a cold a lot more pleasant. You’ll still wish you were out of bed – but at least you’ll stop wishing that you were dead!
1) The Abortive Treatment. If you notice a cold at its very onset, you have a good shot at beating it. The trick, of course, is to identify the symptoms immediately:
– A slight throat tickle
– A feeling of being slightly out of sorts; mildly distracted, tense, physically uncoordinated
– A nose or throat that feels unusually tight and/or dry
– An appetite that doesn’t seem normal
Don’t ignore these symptoms, or hope they’ll go away by themselves. Instead, assume that a cold is about to strike and take all the steps of the following abortive treatment.
Step No. 1 Reduce your work load. Don’t take on extra tasks. Take it easy for the next few days. In short, baby yourself.
Step No. 2 Treat yourself to extra fluids, especially fruit juices that contain nutrients your body needs to fight off the cold. (A note to parents: monitor your child’s fluid intake; otherwise, he or she might not drink as much juice as necessary.) A good goal to aim for is one eight-ounce glass of juice every two hours.
Step No. 3 Get lots of rest. Go to bed an hour earlier than usual. If you feel lethargic or sleepy during the day, take a nap. If you can’t sleep, just relax for a while with a good book. If you wake up after a night’s sleep feeling worse than you did before you fell asleep, stay in bed. Take the day off. Give your body the replenishment it obviously needs to beat the cold.
Step No. 4 Several times during the day, take a few moments to do your Relaxation Response (mentioned in Lesson 7). Find a place where you can be alone, if possible. Sit in a relaxed fashion, hands open and relaxed on your lap. Close your eyes. Relax your jaw. Take deep breaths. Now concentrate on your chosen word, phrase or some pleasant scene. Continue to breathe deeply and calmly as you focus on your phrase or scene. Let yourself enjoy this relaxed state for three to five minutes. Repeat it at least once an hour during your workday. The reduction in stress aids your body’s immune system against cold viruses.
Step No. 5 Consciously slow yourself down. Reduce your walking pace. Be as slow, as languorous as you can without feeling silly about it. Remember, the less energy you burn up, the more remains to fight the cold.
Step No. 6 Give yourself the hot-bath treatment. Take a bath in water as hot as you can stand. Maintain the temperature with a constant trickle of hot tap water. Soak in it for at least ten minutes. After you are heated through, have a cold-water soaked washcloth ready and stand up to briskly rub yourself all over with – this will stimulate your immune system to produce white blood cells. Then, lay down in your bath again, allowing yourself to sweat it out for another ten minutes or so. Dry thoroughly and briskly with rough towels. Put a sweater or sweat shirt over fresh nightclothes and get to bed. Your body may be so strengthened by this sweat-and-relax technique that it can defeat the cold before it takes root.
Step No. 7 Whenever or however you retire to bed, first make sure that the bedroom is well ventilated and is comfortably cool (60 to 65 F.). Make sure your bed has adequate covers so you won’t have to worry about drafts when you crack open the window. The real enemy is an overheated and underventilated room.
Step No. 8 Increase your intake of vitamins the first day you notice the signs of an oncoming cold. In particular, take vitamin C – which stimulates and protects your immune system; vitamin A – which protects delicate mucous membranes of your mouth, throat, and nose; vitamin B-2 and B-6 – which reduce stress symptoms; vitamin D – which helps digestion; and vitamin E – which has infection-healing properties. Your multi-vitamin and mineral (mentioned in Lesson 2) should be a good base from which to work, and the herb, Echinacea will be an excellent immune system stimulant at this stage – to abort the cold.
2) Treating a Full Fledged Cold
Dietary Considerations for acute or chronic infections: flu, grippe, tonsillitis, sinusitis, bronchial catarrh, chronic colds, virus-type infections.
If you were unable to abort the cold at the onset of the symptoms, then follow this advice to help fight the cold.
In acute stage of the disease, when fever is present in above mentioned conditions, patient should abstain from all solid foods and only drink fresh fruit and vegetable juices, diluted with water, 50-50, plus herb teas from herbs recommended in this section. After fever subsides, a low calorie raw fruit and vegetable diet with plenty of raw juices and herb teas, sweetened with honey. Some raw seeds, nuts and sprouted seeds and grains. After the acute condition is over, the Optimum Vegetarian Diet with suggested supplements.
1. In persistent chronic conditions, repeated short juice fasts, one week to 10 days.
2. Hot epsom salt baths, dry brush massage, plenty of rest, mild exercises and walking in fresh air.
3. Barefoot walking on sand, gravel and/or wet grass is strengthening in chronic conditions.
4. Once a week, take sauna or over-heating bath.
5. In mouth and throat infections especially keep clove of garlic and/or vitamin C tablet in the mouth, (as you would a hard candy). If, upon examining your throat with a mirror and bright light you can see white or yellowish pus spots at the back of your throat, and if your glands are swollen, it may be strep throat. Monitor closely the effectiveness of the garlic and/or vitamin C because if they are not effective you will want to consult your doctor immediately.
6. For cold sores: for many people, the small sores on the lips variously known as cold sores or “fever blisters” usually will appear as a result of the emotional and/or physical stress caused by a cold or the flu; taking extra doses of B-complex vitamins can heal these sores more quickly, as the vitamins stimulate the immune system and reduce stress. Smearing acidophilus yogurt on external sores works well also.
Suggested Vitamins and Supplements (Daily)
C – massive doses up to 5,000 mg. In acute condition, 1,000 mg. every second hour (vitamin C has a natural, non-invasive antibiotic action).
Bioflavonoids – rutin, hesperidin, citron, – 200 to 600 mg.
Garlic – raw or garlic oil capsules. Garlic is a natural antibiotic.
A – 50,000 to 150,000 IU (in Beta Carotene form for only 1 month, reduced after that to 25,000 IU a day).
|Brewer’s yeast – 2 Tbsp.||B-6 – 100 mg. (natural antihistamine)|
|Honey – natural, unheated, unfiltered, in herb teas.||B-complex – natural, high potency|
|Echinacea, one or two capsules an hour||E – 600 IU|
|Bee Pollen||Zinc – 30 mg|
Juices: Lemon, black currant, orange, pineapple, elderberries (particularly for bronchial catarrh), carrot, beet, tomato, green pepper, watercress, plus onion and garlic juice in small doses added to vegetable juices.
Herbs: Echinacea, rose hips, golden seal, camomile, peppermint, lemon grass, slippery elm, ginger, cinchona bark, sage, desert tea (Ephemera Viridis).
Specifics: Echinacea, vitamins C, A, and B-6, garlic, bioflavonoids, honey, rose hips, fresh juices. Optimum nutrition and repeated short juice fasts will increase body’s resistance against colds.
1) Garlic oil combined with onion juice, diluted with water and drunk several times a day, has been found in several studies to be extremely effective to patients suffering from grippe, sore throat and rhinitis.
2) In so-called “intestinal flu”, in addition to supplements mentioned above, Betaine Hydrochloride (2 tablets after each meal) helps in intestinal detoxification; also, pepsin is beneficial.
Drugs and Their Dangers
There’s little need for medications when dealing with the common cold. The drugs listed below have been proven effective against cold symptoms, but none of them can hasten the end of the cold attack; your own body’s natural healing system will finally rid you of your cold. Often, medications retard this process, so approach all drugs with the utmost caution. All of them (this includes aspirin) may produce side effects far more unpleasant than your simple cold. Far better to look for the natural remedies that will support your body’s immune system while throwing off the symptoms of your cold.
Aspirin – Once considered the most miraculous drug known to medical science, aspirin has recently come under scrutiny. The drug, it’s been learned, can have serious side effects. Aspirin doesn’t have quite the cure-all effect its been famous for, either.
Advantages: Aspirin has a marked effect in reducing throat irritation. It temporarily relieves moderate pain in the muscles and joints. It will significantly lower fever. And, to a somewhat lesser extent, it will also ease headaches and other facial pain.
Disadvantages: In many people, aspirin will cause minor bleeding in the stomach walls. This often leads to stomach irritation, mild cramps, a ringing in the ears, and drowsiness. Aspirin may also alter the effects of other medications, particularly those prescribed for arthritis, gout, or diabetes. Aspirin can aggravate kidney problems and most allergies. Some people are especially vulnerable to aspirins’ more serious side effects; these include severe bleeding and erosion of the stomach lining; the development or activation of a gastric ulcer; liver and kidney damage; and slowed blood clotting.
Aspirin Substitutes – Acetaminophens, such as Tylenol, have less severe side effects than aspirin. They will not reduce throat irritation, however, and overdosing could lead to kidney or liver damage. Discontinue if symptoms of the cold do not decrease after two days.
Antibiotics – The four major categories of antibiotics are penicillin, sulfonamide, erythromycin, and tetracycline. All these drugs will destroy certain kinds of bacterial infection. But colds are caused by viral infections. So how come we’re including antibiotics in this section? Because until recently, it was widely believed drugs of this sort could combat the common cold. It’s a belief that is taking its own sour time dying off, too. Far too many doctors still prescribe antibiotics to patients with colds. And because antibiotics are relatively easy to get without a prescription, far too many people are taking them without medical supervision. To quote the American Medical Association: “The use of antibiotics – whether physician prescribed or illegally obtained privately – for the treatment of the common cold is deplorable.” It is true that bacterial complications following a severe cold – complications such as strep throat, ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, laryngitis, even sometimes sinus infections – can be successfully treated with antibiotics. These drugs have no place being prescribed for the common cold, however.
Advantages: None, (even though some physicians persist in prescribing antibiotics for their placebo effect or merely to show how much they care for their patients.)
Disadvantages: There are four major ones. Cold viruses are not inhibited by any antibiotic. In addition to destroying dangerous bacteria, the drug will destroy helpful bacteria, (as we learned in the lesson on Candida) and then other opportunistic invaders like yeasts and molds can find entrance into the body. Many people are allergic to antibiotics, especially to penicillin. Reactions range from skin rashes to death (from respiratory failure). Finally, certain strains of bacteria develop new generations of their kind quite quickly, and these new strains are resistant to antibiotics.
1. Never, under any circumstance, take any form of unprescribed antibiotic.
2. If a doctor prescribes one for you, don’t be afraid to ask him why. Unless you have a bacterial infection on top of your cold, there’s no reason why you should take antibiotics.
3. If antibiotic treatment is proper for your condition, be sure you take it only as exactly prescribed by your doctor. Also, be sure to restore your natural, friendly intestinal bacteria by means of acidophilus capsules or active culture yogurt.
Antihistamines – Histamines are produced by your body as a healthy response to tissue damage. The substance, which prompts healing by causing small blood vessels to expand in order to clean, repair and fight further infection, is released in great quantities during a cold. The histamines cause the inflammation of nose and throat, and the antihistamine drugs can effectively suppress them. Antihistamine capsules quite effectively reduce painful swelling of nasal passages and the throat. However, the drug has no other effect on your cold. Indeed, it may often block your body’s attempt to cure itself. For cold sufferers with greatly irritated and swollen noses and throats, though, an antihistamine tablet will provide some respiratory comfort.
Advantages: Some temporary relief from runny noses, swollen nasal tissue, itching eyes, and sore throat.
Disadvantages: Antihistamines cause uncontrollable drowsiness and should never be taken while driving a car, operating machinery, or engaging in any activity that requires absolute concentration and effort. They can upset your stomach. They can act as a mood depressant. And, as already mentioned, the antihistamine pill also can retard the healing process of the body.
Decongestants – These drugs are somewhat similar to antihistamines, as they constrict dilated blood vessels in the nasal passages causing inflammation and irritation. As they do not inhibit histamines, though, decongestants do not adversely affect the body’s natural defense system. Even so, their effectiveness against colds is slight. In pill form, the decongestant will relieve localized pain for a few hours and also will allow you to breathe through your nose more easily. However, they are very expensive and have some unpleasant side effects. Because the pills dilate all blood vessels – not just those in the nasal passages – they should not be taken by any person with heart disease or high blood pressure. Decongestants may also aggravate diabetes by increasing blood sugar. In general, use of decongestants should be severely limited. Instead of something this invasive, why not detour around the side effects and try this instead: Take 1 teaspoon of salt and dissolve in one eight-ounce glass of warm water. Cup your hand and pour a little of this solution into your hand. Then stand over a sink and snuff the water up your nose, holding one nostril so you can do this process a nostril at a time.
Advantages: Temporary relief from nasal congestion; temporary aid to comfortable breathing.
Disadvantages: Decongestants will often overly stimulate the nervous system; if taken just before bedtime, sleeplessness may result. There is also a rebound effect with the drug; use it more than directed and you may merely aggravate the symptoms you are trying to control.