Sunday, February 26, 2006

Apple #152: Treating the Common Cold

  • Most colds last about 1 week, but some can last for as long as 2 weeks. Some especially persistent symptoms like a nagging cough can last for several weeks.
  • Commonly available "remedies" such as zinc tablets, echinacea, or other herbal concoctions have not been shown to have conclusively beneficial effects on colds.
  • Antibiotics are not appropriate treatment for colds. Colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Giving someone antibiotics for a cold is like hitting someone over the head when they complain of a toothache. It's not going to help; in fact, it's only going to make things worse. Taking antibiotics needlessly will reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics in the long run, when you might actually need them.
  • The best thing to do for colds is still to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and avoid vigorous activity.
  • While going back to school or work early might make your employers happy in the short run, that delight will be short-lived because chances are, you'll probably give your cold to your fellow employees or schoolmates. People with colds can be contagious for up to 3 weeks.
  • Taking decongestants or cough suppressants will do nothing to prevent, cure, or even shorten your cold. At best, they will help you function well enough so that you can go out into the world and probably hand your cold off to someone else.
  • If someone with a cold does inflict their mucus on you, the best thing to do to keep yourself from getting sick is to wash your hands as soon as possible. Using antibacterial soap probably won't have the effect you want, again, because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Any old regular soap will do.

I will not feel guilty for staying home and not giving this cold to the people I work with!

Kids, Infections: Common Cold
Fact Monster, The Common Cold
Aetna InteliHealth, Health A to Z, Common Cold (Viral Rhinitis)

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