Treatment of cold

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					A self-treatment guide
for colds and ‘flu


                         www.chic.org.uk
In the Dark Ages,             Know your enemy –                      Medically, there is no such illness
                                                                     as ‘flu, but it is now accepted as
when the UK was in            what are colds and ‘flu?
                                                                     the common term for the illness
the grip of the Black         Let’s start by sorting out the         Influenza. ‘Flu is caused by
                              difference between colds and ‘flu,     different viruses from those that
Death, the mere
                              because there is a difference,         cause colds. Although it is caught
suggestion of a sneeze        although both are virus
was enough to send            infections. Antibiotics        FACT: The cold season lasts from September to
                              have no effect on viruses, March. 80% of all annual colds are contracted during
people running to get         so there is no point in        this time period.
out of your way.              trying to get some from
                              your doctor to cure a cold. In fact       in the same way and has similar
That’s because a
                              there is no cure, you just have to        symptoms, ‘flu is quite a nasty
sneeze was one of the         wait while your body’s natural            illness and it can lead to serious
earliest symptoms of          defences fight off the virus. This        complications in vulnerable people,
                              will take several days, but you can such as the elderly and people
the Bubonic Plague.           effectively treat the symptoms and with certain long-term medical
These days, upper             make yourself more comfortable            conditions. Luckily, just just three
                              with over-the-counter medicines.          types of virus cause ‘flu and a
respiratory tract
                                                                        vaccine is available. You should be
infections - that is          Colds are caused
colds and flu - are the       by more than 100        What makes us sneeze?
                              different viruses,      Sneezing may seem like a straightforward
most common of all            so many that it is      procedure, but, in fact, the tickling in your nose
infections; on average        impossible to make that starts a sneeze off is just the beginning
every adult can expect        a vaccine that          of a complicated chain of events. Tickling in
                              would stop us
to get two a year, and                                nose      message to “sneeze centre” in brain
                              from getting them.
                                                          message to all muscles involved ie.
children even more.           Colds are caught
                              by breathing in         abdominal (belly) muscles, chest muscles,
But there is usually                                  diaphragm, the muscles that control your vocal
                              microscopic
no need to go to your         droplets of fluid       cords, muscles in the back of your throat and
doctor, or to suffer in       containing the          your eyelid muscles         SNEEZE!
                              virus sneezed or
silence, as a cold is not     coughed out by a person who has           vaccinated every year if
serious and you can           a cold. You can also pick up on           you are over 65, or if you
                              your fingers infected droplets that       have bronchitis, asthma,
ease the misery and
                              fall onto surfaces, and then put          emphysema, heart disease,
get through it with the       them into your body by touching           kidney disease or diabetes,
help of over-the-counter      your nose or eyes. Colds are most         or if your immune system
                              common in the winter months, but is weakened by disease
medicines. This leaflet       can occur at any time of year.            or treatment.
will tell you how.
                    SNEEZING FACT: The record for the longest sneezing bout
                    ever goes to a Donna Griffiths, from Worcestershire. Donna
                    started sneezing on 13 January 1981 and didn’t stop for 987
                    days; her next sneeze-free day was 16 September 1983.
In the case of ‘flu, symptoms
come on quickly with shivering,
headache, muscle aches in the
                                     Day 1-2                                     Day 2-3
back and legs and dizziness.         Symptoms                                    Symptoms
A high temperature always
                                     This is the incubation stage and there      Things start with a tickle or soreness in
develops, but should go down
                                     are no symptoms to tell you that you        the nose and/or throat and sometimes
within 48 hours. Symptoms            have been infected.                         in the eyes.
similar to a cold then develop and
may be accompanied by loss of                                                    The soreness in the throat gets worse
                                     What’s happening to your body
appetite, nausea and even                                                        and a dry cough might start, as if your
                                     Colds are caused by more than 100           throat was trying to clear something
vomiting. The worst is usually
                                     different viruses, so many that it is       stuck in it.
over in 4-5 days but complete
                                     impossible to make a vaccine to stop
recovery can take up to 10 days.     us from getting them. They are caught       You start sneezing and your nose starts
                                     by breathing in microscopic droplets of     to run.
The course of a cold is easier to    fluid containing the virus sneezed or
plot - here is a timeline guide to   coughed out by a person who has a           What’s happening to your body
the course of a cold, showing you    cold. As a good sneeze can carry more       Cells in the nose and throat release
what you can do to help yourself     than the length of a bus or underground     chemicals to call up the main defence
at each stage, and medicines         railway carriage you can’t really get out   troops – the white blood cells. These
you can take to get through it       of the way of them. You can also get        chemicals irritate the cells and cause
with the minimum of discomfort.      infected droplets on your fingers by        itchiness and soreness, and tickling in
Not everybody gets all the           contact with a person who has a cold,       the nose making you sneeze.
symptoms, or with the same           of from objects and surfaces that they
                                                                                 By now, a large number of cells have
severity or for the same length      have fallen on to. You then put them
                                                                                 been invaded and killed off by the
of time; it depends on the virus     into your body by touching your nose
                                                                                 virus, and the cells in the lining of the
causing the infection and            or eyes. Some get past the body’s first
                                                                                 nose produce a watery mucus to wash
the individual.                      line of defence – the hairs and mucus
                                                                                 them out.
                                     in the nose, which traps them – and
                                     invade the cells of the airways. Their      Mounting the counter-attack against the
                                     only aim in life is to take over your       virus takes a lot out of you, and you will
                                     cells and to use them to reproduce by       feel tired and unwell.
                                     the million. Your body must now
                                     mobilise its defences to fight them off.    What you can do
                                                                                 It’s probably best to stay at home to
                                     What you can do                             avoid spreading your cold to others.
                                     If you can, stay away from people with
                                                                                 Take it easy and rest if possible.
                                     colds to avoid getting infected.
                                                                                 Keep warm, and keep the atmosphere
                                     Do not touch your nose or eyes after
                                                                                 moist.
                                     being in contact with somebody who
                                     has a cold or influenza.                    Drink plenty of fluids, as you will lose
                                                                                 a lot through mucus production and
                                     If there are colds around, wash your
                                                                                 possibly perspiration.
                                     hands often to keep the viruses off them.
                                                                                 Avoid smoking if possible, as it will
                                                                                 further irritate the throat and the lining
                                                                                 of the nose.
Over-the-counter                           What’s happening to your body               There are some ”all-in-one” medicines,
medicines you can take                     The tissues in the nose swell up as your    which contain a combination of
Suck lozenges or pastilles to ease a       body continues to fight the infection.      ingredients to treat several symptoms.
sore throat. Some are simply pleasantly    The mucus gets clogged with white           They are convenient and often cheaper
flavoured with lemon or blackcurrant,      blood cells, dead viruses and cells the     than buying individual products.
and contain glycerin to lubricate a        viruses have killed. Air spaces (sinuses)
sore throat, while others are medicated.   around the nose fill up with mucus,
For very sore throats, when it hurts to
swallow, there are lozenges and throat
                                           and they push on nerves causing pain
                                           (sinusitis).
                                                                                       Day 5-14+
sprays containing local anaesthetics,
and a lozenges containing                  Mucus is also produced in the pharynx,      Symptoms
anti-inflammatory ingredients.             causing tissues to swell up.                Symptoms usually start to subside.

For a troublesome dry cough, take a                                                    Usually with a cold adults do not get a
                                           What you can do
linctus containing a cough suppressant                                                 high temperature, although children
                                           Continue as above.
such as dextromethorphan. Linctuses                                                    may do. If the infection is a really nasty
containing antihistamines are also for     Sleep with your head on a high pillow       one adults may have a slight fever after
dry coughs and because they tend to        if your nose is stuffed up at night.        a few days.
cause drowsiness, are useful to take at    Use steam inhalations to liquefy
bedtime if a cough is keeping you                                                      What’s happening to your body
                                           mucus in the nose and chest and help
awake at night. Sucking lozenges will      get rid of it.                              The virus has been defeated. It is
also help control a dry cough.                                                         now just a matter of time until things
For that ‘generally awful’ feeling take    Over-the-counter                            get back to normal. But it may be a
ibuprofen or paracetamol.*                 medicines you can take                      couple of weeks until the catarrh has all
                                           Decongestants shrink down swollen           gone, the coughing stops and the
                                           tissues in the nasal passages and allow     swollen tissues in the nose and chest

Day 3-5                                    air to flow freely through them again.
                                           They are available as nose drops and
                                                                                       shrink down again.

                                           sprays and in syrup and tablet forms.       What you can do
Symptoms                                                                               Go back to your normal activities.
                                           Take pain relievers like ibuprofen and
The discharge from the nose may                                                        Keep on with medication if you
                                           paracetamol for sinusitis pain.
change from clear and watery to thicker                                                need to until the symptoms have
and yellowish in colour.                   For a chesty cough use a linctus            gone completely.
                                           containing an expectorant, such as
Your nose starts to feel very stuffy and                                               If you still have a raised temperature
                                           guiaphenesin, which loosens and helps
blocked up, and you might get pain in                                                  take ibuprofen or paracetamol.*
                                           bring up the catarrh that is causing the
the forehead and around and behind
                                           cough. Some expectorant linctuses also
the eyes.
                                           contain a decongestant which helps you
Catarrh produced in the nose drips         breathe easier if you are wheezy as well.
down the nasal passage into the
                                           Decongestants also help to dry up a
pharynx (upper windpipe), causing a
                                           runny nose, as do antihistamines and
phlegmy, chesty cough as the body
                                           there are some cold treatments that
tries to get rid of the catarrh.
                                           contain both.
The tissues in the windpipe also
                                           Inhalations containing menthol,
get congested, so that air passes
                                           eucalyptus oil and other essential oils
through less easily and you could
                                           also help to unblock the nose. These
become wheezy.
                                           can be used alone or inhaled in steam.
Digging in – how to make yourself                             The fall back position – when you
more comfortable                                              might need to see a doctor
Colds                                                         Nearly all colds and ‘flu will clear up on their own,
     Treat symptoms with over-the-counter                     but there are some situations where you might need
     medicines (see previous page) and warm drinks            to see a doctor:

     There is no need to reduce normal activities,                If you have had a cough for more than two weeks, or if it
     although going in to work may just spread the                is getting worse over a shorter period
     infection and the misery
                                                                  If the catarrh that you bring up is thick and a dark yellow,
     You might become tired more easily and                       brownish or greenish colour, or has spots of blood in it
     need to rest.                                                If you have a noticeably raised temperature with a cold,
‘Flu                                                              or if you have ‘flu and your temperature has not gone
                                                                  down after 48 hours
     Treat symptoms with appropriate
     over-the-counter medicines                                   If you get shortness of breath, especially if you are elderly

     Stay in bed, rest and try to get plenty of sleep             If you feel severe pain in the chest when you breathe
                                                                  in or cough
     Drink as much fluid as possible, but not alcohol
                                                                  If you have had a sore throat that is not getting better
     Avoid smoking if possible.                                   after a week, or a sore throat with persistent hoarseness,
                                                                  a rash, a stiff neck, or difficulty in swallowing

Don’t forget that in pharmacies a                                 If you have earache

pharmacist is always readily available                            If you suffer from asthma or bronchitis, as a cold may
                                                                  lead on to a more serious bacterial infection and need
to give you advice on symptoms and
                                                                  treatment with an antibiotic
treatment. He or she will also make sure
that a medicine is safe for you to take,
                                                              Calling up the reserves – where
because there are some cold remedies
                                                              you can get information and advice
        that should be avoided by
                                                              as well as from your pharmacist
            people with certain medical
                                                              or doctor
               conditions, and some that
                 can react with and cause                         For further information on colds and ‘flu, visit
                                                                  the Consumer Health Information Centre website at
                  problems with some
                                                                  www.chic.org.uk
                  prescribed medicines.
                                                                  For information on particular over-the-counter products to
                  The pharmacist will                             treat colds and ‘flu visit the Medicine-Chest website at
                 also advise on cold                              www.medicinechestonline.com
               treatments available for                           For information on vitamins, minerals and other
             babies and children, and                             health supplements visit the Health Supplements
                                                                  Information Service website at www.hsis.org or call
         what is suitable for pregnant                            the helpline on 020 7370 2233.
women and elderly people.
Always Read the label.
*Do not exceed the dose stated on the pack of any medicines
 you are taking.
                                                                                       www.chic.org.uk




Myths and Legends
Old wives’ tales exist in abundance when it comes to cold and ‘flu.


Cold weather causes colds and flu                      Going out with wet hair will give
                                                       you a cold
Cold weather has never been proved as the cause
of a cold. Some theories suggest that the increase     This will probably give you the shivers, but not a
of the occurrence of the common cold during colder     cold. In one experiment volunteers were drenched
months is because more people gather indoors           with water and placed in cold draughts. They
with little circulation where the viruses are more     were no more likely to catch a cold than the
likely to spread.                                      fortunate volunteers who stayed warm and dry.


Feed a cold and starve a fever                         Taking over-the-counter medicines
Appetite is often lost during a fever, so there is a   each time you have a cold will make
natural tendency not to eat, but you should actually   you immune to them
try to eat something nutritious to help give you
                                                          This is not the case. Some medicines such
energy to fight the virus.
                                                                as antibiotics do lose their effectiveness
Feeding a cold has no basis either:                                if they are used inappropriately or too
sufferers should merely seek to eat                                  often. Cold and ‘flu remedies work
a healthy, well-balanced diet and                                     in a different way; by relieving
drink plenty of fluids, in order to                                    symptoms. They will continue to
stay well nourished to effectively                                     be effective when treating your
fight off the cold.                                                   occasional bouts of colds and ‘flu.


You only need to take                                          Using a cold or flu remedy
over-the-counter medicines for                             will make the infection last
the first day or two of a cold                         longer and delay the symptoms
There is no cure for a cold but you can make           Whatever you do, it takes between 4 and 14 days
yourself feel much better if you take medicines to     for your body to clear out the virus causing the
combat the symptoms while your body is fighting        problem. By relieving the symptoms with the most
off the infection. Symptoms may last from just a       appropriate remedy you will feel better and able to
day or two to perhaps two weeks and you need to        get on with the things you want to do, while letting
treat them for as long as you have them, otherwise     the cold or flu run its course.
they can just carry on being a nuisance. But do
not exceed the maximum length of treatment
recommended on the pack.

				
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