So you have a cold that won't let go, and want to know who to blame? Elliot Dick, Ph.D., who has conductedd research for more than 30 years on how colds are transmitted, says a lot of suspects have been taking a bum rap. They include:
• Sharing food or beverages with someone who has a cold
• Kissing someone with a cold
• Stepping outside with a wet head
The real culprit, of course, is a virus transmitted through the air, says Dr. Dick. You can catch it, he says, when someone with a cold coughs, sneezes, or does a sloppy job of blowing his nose, sending the virus floating into your path.
If colds are so common, why isn't there a cure? The answer has to do with simple mathematics. As many as 200 viruses are responsible for the 1 billion colds Americans get each year, stymieing scientists' ability to concoct a "cure" that will work against them all.
It's clear that antibiotics, highly effective at knocking out bacterial infections, are useless against colds, which are caused by viruses. So most people live with the sniffles and aches, maybe take an over-the-counter remedy or two, and hope the symptoms will disappear in the customary week or so.
But there's much more you can do to ease your way through a cold more comfortably, doctors say. Some remedies may even help you overcome a cold more quickly. Here's how.
If your cold is accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms, see your doctor. Your problem may be more serious than the common cold.
• A fever that remains above 101°F for more than 3 days, or any fever above 103°F
• Any hot, extreme pain, such as earache, swollen tonsils, sinus pain, or aching lungs or chest
• Excessively large amounts of sputum, or sputum that is greenish or bloody
• Extreme difficulty swallowing
• Excessive loss of appetite
• Shortness of breath
Diane Casdorph, R.Ph., Pharm. D., is a clinical pharmacist at the Positive Health Clinic in the Department of Infectious Diseases at West Virginia University School of Pharmacy in Morgantown. She is also Pharmacy Principle Trainer of the Merlin (EPIC) Project at West Virginia University Hospitals, also in Morgantown.
Samuel Caughron, M.D., is an assistant clinical professor in University of Virginia School of Nursing in Charlottesville. He is a former assistant clinical professor of family medicine at the University and former chief of family practice at Martha Jefferson Hospital. His is also president of the Albemarle Medical Association.
Elliot Dick, Ph.D., is a retired virologist and professor of preventive medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has conducted research on the common cold for more than 30 years.
Elson Haas, M.D., is the director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin, an integrated healthcare facility in San Rafael, California, and author of seven books on health and nutrition, including The False Fat Diet and Staying Healthy with Nutrition.
Martin Rossman, M.D., practices Integrative Medicine in Greenbrae, California, and is on the clinical faculty at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. He is a leading medical authority on mind/body healing, and author ofGuided Imagery for Self-Healing.
Timothy Van Ert, M.D., is a staff physician at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon, where he specializes in self-care and preventive medicine.