The common cold


I have copied word for word, of what is written below, from the Anatomica – The complete home medical reference, since there are so many vehicles that might supress it or even delete it.

The common cold can be caused by one of five viral families that, between them, encompass a couple of hundred unique viral strains. Most typical of these are the rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, which affect the upper respiratory tract. Secondary infections may occur in the eye or middle ear, particularly in children. Adults may also suffer from inflamed sinuses. The main difference between the common cold and other respiratory infections, including the flu, is the absence of fever (except in children), as well as the general mildness of the symptoms.

Because the viral strains are sufficiently different from one another it is possible to catch one and later be infected by another. So children are particularly susceptible, especially if they mix socially with large numbers of people; the can have between four and ten colds in a year, or more if they suffer asthma attacks. The cold is spread by contact between people, which is thought to be the reason why colds are more prevalent in winter when people spend more time indoors and in contact with each other. Colds are transmitted by droplets coughed or sneezed onto another person, or from contact between contaminated skin and a mucosal surface. The incubation period is short – one to four days. First symptoms can be a sore throat, tiredness, nasal discharge and /or aching muscles followed by sneezing, coughing, headaches, a chill and nasal discharge. Symptoms vary from person to person, but will usually take from seven to ten days from start to finish.

Treatment consists of easing the symptoms; plenty of fluids and acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen may help. Children should never be given aspirin because of the possibility of Reye’s syndrome, which is fatal.

Antibiotics are of no value against a virus, though they may be prescribed for an infectious complication.

Over-the-counter preparations are plentiful for treatment of cold symptoms. Some contain drugs to constrict the blood vessels, others contain antihistamine which relieves stuffiness and can help induce sleep.

There have been over 60 trials of vitamin C and its effects on the common cold, with different and confusing results. The majority, however, show that taking vitamin C has little effect on reducing the incidence of colds.

The reason it is difficult for researchers to come up with a cure is the number of different viruses. An additional factor is that the cold is only common on humans, which makes it difficult to test possible cures.

Although there is no cure, precautions can be taken: these include a nutritious diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and legumes; regular exercise; avoiding smoky environments; getting enough sleep; staying away from people with colds and other illnesses; washing hands frequently and teaching children to do likewise particularly after touching the nose or mouth; and avoiding crowds.

There are a number of alternative therapies that may help to alleviate the symptoms of the common cold. Acupuncture is said to speed recovery and boost the immune system in cases of repeated bouts of cold. Aromatherapy uses decongestant oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint in inhalations, baths or oil burners. Herbalism prescribes anti-inflammatory and antiviral herbs such as Echinacea, garlic and astralagus, as well as ginger and cayenne for warming. Sweating is encouraged with diaphoretic herbs such as peppermint or yarrow.

Naturopathy views colds as a natural detoxification process which should not be suppressed. To ease the severity of the cold, naturopaths recommend vitamin C and zinc along with a light cleansing diet, plenty of fluids and rest.


  • Virus particles attack the membranous lining of the respiratory tract (nose and throat).
  • The respiratory membrane becomes inflamed.
  • White blood cells encounter the virus and stimulate the body’s defenses.
  • Blood vessels bring white blood cells to the infected lining to attack the virus. This causes swelling and congestion.
  • Some white blood cells attack the virus with chemicals.
  • Some white blood cells make antibodies against the virus.
  • Virus particles captures by antibodies are consumed and destroyed by white blood cells called phagocytes. The virus has now been destroyed and the body can recover.


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