Most adults contract two viruses per year and children a half dozen. No two colds are the same and each group or family of viruses (of which there are more than 100) can produce different symptoms. The midwinter menaces - adenoviruses, corona viruses and respiratory syncytial viruses - invade the breathing passages and cause fever and bronchitis. Rhinoviruses, the culprits in most late-spring and early-fall colds, produce sniffles, headaches and runny eyes.
Below are the general recommendations offered by our office for arming yourself against and, or treating colds and flu based on current available research. More information is available from our office about these different options and procedures upon request.
Consider A Flu Shot if you are in a "high risk group" (over 65, have asthma, lung or heart disease, are pregnant, have diabetes, or suffer from any other significant illness which is acting as a drain on your immune system, or are in frequent contact with large numbers of people). Flu shots are standardized by the Centers For Disease Control, so it does not matter where you receive your serum. Try to receive shot by mid-November since it takes up to two weeks to become effective.
Socialize Freely. A study at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who reported having three or fewer types of social ties had more than four times the risk of getting a cold than those with six or more types of contacts. The benefits of social support appear to outweigh the increased risk of contracting a communicable bug.
Reduce Your Stress. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine with 394 subjects found that those who reported the greatest degree of psychological stress during the past year were at greater risk for developing a cold.
Know When To Use Antibiotics. Antibiotics can actually be counterproductive when used against viruses rather than bacterial infections. On the other hand, persistent, untreated infections can lead to a depressed immune system which has difficulty fighting off common viruses. Also, secondary infections can develop in susceptible individuals who initially contract a non-bacterial cold or flu virus. In general, never request antibiotics from your physician without first being evaluated by him or her in person to determine if you have a viral or bacterial infection. (The only clear sign of a bacterial infection for the layperson is green nasal discharge.)
Get Enough Rest. A double-blind, controlled study in Psychosomatic Medicine found persons who suffered from disrupted sleep had decreased levels of natural killer cells indicative of a weakened immune system. Although there is some variation, most individuals require 8 hours sleep each night.
Get Plenty Of Fresh Air, Fluids and Humidity Indoor environments can be problematic in a variety of ways during the cold winter months. Enclosed air recirculates viruses while the low temperatures and humidity tend to dry out mucus membranes of the nasal passages making us more susceptible to contracting a cold or flu. Adding a snorkel or outside air vent to your home furnace system, opening windows frequently at work, taking frequent walks outdoors and adding humidity (30-40 %) to your indoor air are some ways to reduce this problem. Also, saline nasal sprays such as Ocean can be used throughout the day to restore normal humidity to the sinuses and lip balm can keep lips from becoming cracked and dry. Drinking at least 32 oz. of water daily is the most important way of staying hydrated. Breathing steam can provide the same effect for lung tissue. Note: Humidifiers (or any standing water in the home) tend to be breeding grounds for molds and traps for bacteria so it is important to keep them clean and well maintained and turned to a moderate (not over 50%) rather than high setting. Filtered furnace air intake systems can be expensive. Often all that is needed is a intake vent.
Exercise Regularly. Moderate aerobic exercise raises the body's level of natural killer cells and may reduce susceptibility to upper respiratory infections. Exercising 20-3 0 minutes 4-5 days per week is optimal when combined with strengthening and flexibility exercises. On the other hand heavy, exhaustive exercise (e.g. working out intensively 60-90 minutes daily) has been shown to increase the risk of general illness. Also, if you exercising in an indoor environment such as a health club be aware that germs and bacteria tend to be more prevalent so keep hands away from face and wash after contact with surfaces. (Colds and flu cannot be transmitted through human sweat however.
Use A Negative Ion Generator. During the winter positive ions tend to build up in enclosed living spaces. A negative ion generator can reestablish the healthy balance between negative and positive ions in your indoor environment as well as clean and disinfect the air you breath.
Wash Your Hands Frequently. A recent Purdue University study found that 50 percent more individuals caught colds who did not wash their hands frequently. Lather your hands for a good 10-15 seconds. It appears best to keep use of antibacterial soaps and hand wipes, especially those containing triclosan or isopropanol, to a minimum since they can actually encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria and some studies suggest isopropanol is cocarcinogenic. Keep hands away from face. Wipe countertops, doorknobs and phones with solution of two tablespoons bleach per quart of warm water.
Use Zinc Lozenges Carefully. Beginning with a study at the Cleveland Clinic in 1996, several research groups have found that Zinc Acetate Lozenges can reduce the duration of a cold by 30-50%. However, zinc lozenges are best used in a preventive capacity and seem to block cold and flu molecules from being absorbed by the mucus membranes of the nose and mouth. Use only chelated zinc acetate (versus non-chelated, or zinc gluconate) lozenges and always allow to dissolve slowly in your mouth. Do not use zinc lozenges for prolonged periods as zinc toxicity can develop. High doses of zinc might actually impair immunity. Follow directions on package closely.
Over the Counter Remedies. There are currently about 800 different cold remedies and most contain the same ingredients. In general it is best to take products for specific symptoms rather than multi-symptom preparations, which contain ingredients that may interfere with one another or slow you healing. A 12-hour timed-release antihistamine and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug taken as soon as symptoms arise will provide maximal comfort - but little in the way of actual healing. Pseudophedrine can open and drain nasal passages but may lead to nervousness and sleep problems. Decongestant nasal sprays can clear a stuffy nose and reduce sinus headache, but must only be limited to one or two days of use at the most to prevent a rebound effect and exacerbation of symptoms. For cough dextromethoraphan can be of use. Guaifenesin is the only expectorant effective for loosening mucus in lungs. For a herbal alternative, take 4.5 grams of the herb horehound is one of the most effective expectorants available. Other herbs that may be helpful are marshmallow, rosemary, slippery elm, yarrow, elderflower, Iceland moss.
Warnings: The information above is provided for educational purposes and may not be construed as a medical prescription or as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Do not use this product without first consulting your physician especially if you are pregnant or lactating. Be advised that some herbs and dietary supplements can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals and may also have an adverse result in conjunction with other medications, or treatments. You should regularly consult your physician in matters regarding your health and particularly in respect to symptoms and conditions which may require diagnosis or medical attention. Reevaluate use of this product after 6 months.