Our Major Health Problems: The Common Cold

Colds and their complications are responsible for more illness, disability, and loss of time from employment than all other diseases taken together. Colds themselves are never fatal and rarely serious. Their great danger lies in their complications, of which pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and mastoid disease are the most common. The "common cold" is not a clear-cut disease entity like diphtheria, smallpox, or scarlet fever but covers various disorders of the nose, throat, and even the lower respiratory tract.

The Cause of Colds

Some colds are infections, caused either by a specific cold virus or by certain bacteria; while others are due primarily to disturbances of the circulatory and temperature-control mechanisms of the body. The latter, which develop as the result of chilling, drafts, alcohol, or allergies, may become secondarily infected by germs which happen to be present in the nose and throat.

Prevention of Colds

First among the means of prevention is the avoidance of infection. The colds which are caused by germs, neither these be viruses or bacteria, are communicated from person to person. Sneezing, coughing, and even speaking propel these germs into the air. The hands of one who has a cold are certain to be grossly contaminated, and infective material is transmitted from his hands to the hands of others which he shakes and to the doorknobs, handrails; and other objects which he touches. Glasses, forks, and spoons used in hotels, restaurants, and soda fountains, unless sterilized with chlorine or steam, (which is exceedingly rare), are literally covered with germs from the mouths of the persons who have used them previously.

Under the conditions of modern life it is obviously impossible to avoid exposure to colds. The best that we can hope for is to reduce the degree of exposure, thereby correspondingly reducing the probability of infection. This can be accomplished by keeping one's distance from individuals who have colds; by absolutely prohibiting persons who have colds from any association with infants; by thorough washing of the hands before meals and after contact with objects likely to contain ineffective material; by keeping the hands away from the nose and month; by the routine sterilization of dishes and silverware; and by the use of individual drinking glasses even within the family.

Since chilling is a factor in the production of colds, those of us who are leading relatively sedentary, indoor lives will have fewer colds if we avoid drafts and other kinds of exposure and chilling. Adequate and proper clothing and shoes to keep the body warm and the feet warm and dry are important. This is especially true with children. Our places of work and our residences should be warm and free from drafts, but not overheated.

The ventilation of sleeping quarters should be regulated in accordance with outside atmospheric conditions, keeping in mind the fact that drafts are undesirable and that sleep is most restful in an atmosphere which is cool, rather than warm or cold.

Many dietary measures are recommended for the prevention of colds but none of these is based upon scientific evidence or established fact. For the maintenance of health a complete, adequate and balanced diet is necessary, but beyond this no special diet or vitamins have been demonstrated to be of value for either the prevention or the cure of colds.

Cold vaccines - not "cold serums," as they are commonly called, for there is no serum for colds-have been more or less widely utilized for many years in the hope of preventing colds. These vaccines contain various mixtures of the bacteria most commonly found in the nose and throat of persons with colds.

For a number of years carefully controlled studies concerning the value of various measures advocated for the prevention and treatment of colds have been carried on by the Students Health Service of the University of Minnesota. In these studies two bacterial vaccines were included. One of these was administered hypodermically and the other by mouth. The results indicate no benefit from the oral vaccine and very little benefit from the vaccine administered by hypodermic injection.

Nasal Hygiene

Nasal sprays, nose drops, gargles, and antiseptics are extensively advertised during the winter months for the prevention of colds. Millions of dollars worth of such materials are sold each year, in spite of the fact that, there is no real evidence that any of these preparations, oils, or antiseptics are of value for the prevention of colds. Furthermore, one cannot even be certain that the use of such preparations is harmless.

Mouthwashes, gargles, and antiseptics may destroy germs in test tubes if given sufficient time but none of them acts instantaneously nor are they effective in the weak solutions which can be tolerated by the membranes of the nose and throat. Furthermore, only a very small proportion of these membranes can possibly be reached by sprays and gargles.

Briefly summarized, the only conclusions we can draw on the basis of present scientific knowledge concerning the prevention of colds are the following:

1. There is no measure that is specific or uniformly effective for the prevention of the common cold.

2. General measures of value in increasing resistance are adequate rest and sleep; exercise and baths, to keep the circulation in good tone; a diet that is adequate and well balanced, moderate in quantity, and containing liberal amounts of fruits and vegetables.

3. Important among the more definite preventive measures are adequate clothing and proper ventilation so as to avoid chilling, excessive temperatures, and drafts; the avoidance of exposure, both direct and indirect, to persons who have colds; the recognition, diagnosis, and correction of allergic conditions; and the removal of obstructing or definitely diseased tonsils and adenoids.

4. Vitamin supplements to adequate, well-balanced diets have not been shown to increase resistance to colds. However, if diets are limited the use of dietary supplements may be advisable for their general health value.

5. Vaccines have not been shown by critical studies to be of sufficient value to justify their Widespread or indiscriminate use, although they may be helpful in occasional, carefully selected individual cases.

Treatment of Colds

First, as to bed rest: "Go to bed when you have a cold and stay there until you are well" is good advice. Its value lies in protecting others from exposure, in increasing general resistance, and in keeping the body warm. Bed rest during the acute stages of colds, supplemented by such other treatment as is indicated, would doubtless diminish their severity, limit their spread, and reduce the frequency of complications. Unfortunately, like most good advice, this is rarely followed. Most people just will not stay in bed unless they feel ill.

Hot baths for the treatment of colds may consist of hot water, hot air, or steam. The effect of these baths is to dilate the blood vessels of the skin and to increase blood flow through them. As a result of this, nasal congestion and stuffiness are reduced. Probably everyone has experienced the relief of nasal stuffiness which frequently follows a hot bath. Similar effects may be obtained with massage or other forms of physiotherapy, with hot or cold compresses, mustard plasters, and certain medicated ointments. If such treatments are followed by rest in bed with sufficient covers to prevent cooling, the effect is prolonged and the possibility of their being of more than temporary benefit is increased.

Exercise is frequently utilized by athletes for the treatment of colds. They describe it as "sweating out" a cold. What they experience is relief of nasal stuffiness, and possibly of discharge, as a result of the exercise. This occurs, as with hot baths, because of the increased flow of blood to the muscles and the skin. Such relief is only temporary, but occasionally it does seem to prevent further progress of the cold. Usually, however, the symptoms recur when the body gets chilled, and then the cold may become even more severe than before.

Large quantities of liquids in the form of water, lemonade, orange juice, or other drinks have long been considered a valuable aid in the treatment of colds. The purpose of these is to increase excretion, thereby, presumably, aiding in the elimination of the supposedly toxic products produced by the infection. This sounds plausible, but unfortunately there is no evidence that it actually occurs. So we are forced to conclude that the practice of forcing fluids for colds is based upon assumption rather than upon evidence of its value.

Medicinal Treatment of Colds

Many millions of dollars are spent each year for medicinal preparations for the treatment of colds. The best of these, but only a small fraction of the total, are purchased on physicians prescriptions. The rest pay for the advertising, the radio programs, and the enormous profits of the manufacturers of relatively worthless "cold remedies."

Colds are of such variable severity and duration that individual experience is of very little significance in judging the value of any preparation for either their prevention or their treatment. For this reason carefully controlled experiments to determine the value of various medications for the treatment of colds were conducted over a period of approximately five years by the Students Health Service of the University of Minnesota.

The procedure followed in these studies was such as to prevent prejudice for or against any particular preparation.

Briefly summarized these studies showed that

1. The Medications of definite value for the treatment of colds all contained derivatives of opium.

2. The best results were obtained with a combination of codeine and papaverine.

3. Advertised cold remedies gave results little if any better than were obtained with sugar tablets.

4. "Nose drops" are more likely to be deleterious than beneficial in an acute cold.

Penicillin and the sulfonamides give such dramatic results in so many infections that they have come to be known as the "wonder drugs." It is natural, therefore, that they should be tried for the treatment of colds. The results, however, have been disappointing except for the treatment of some of the complications which follow certain colds. Furthermore, these drugs are not without danger and so should be used only on the advice and prescription of a physician.

Very recently a number of drugs known as the antihistamines have been extensively advertised for the prevention and treatment of colds. As yet, however, no critical and convincing studies have been reported concerning their value.

The Commercial Aspect of Colds

The sale of preparations for the prevention and treatment of colds has become big business, so big in fact that Fortune magazine devoted a major article to it a few years ago. Concerning this business Fortune says: "The least of the cold soother's worries is his formula. What goes into his pills or syrups or salves is distinctly a secondary consideration. How to sell his concoction is what chiefly worries the aspiring manufacturer of cold remedies. He is in a business where competitors are many and scruples are few."

Such information should serve as a warning in regard to the claims made by newspaper, billboard, and radio advertisers; but the customer needs also to beware of the cold remedies which the prescribing druggist recommends.

Several years ago an investigator, feeling that he was coming down with a cold, visited seven different drug stores in Chicago and asked for remedies for his cold. With one exception, he obtained in each drug store three items. The bill for the three items averaged $2. None of these remedies duplicated others. Some were entirely useless, some might have given temporary symptomatic relief; others were prescriptions which were apparently pet hobbies of the druggists "consulted." The seventh druggist suggested that the investigator return to his home, go to bed and call a physician; adding, that the undertaker across the street was exceedingly busy during this particular period.

The best pharmacists do not prescribe for their patients; but if anyone believes seriously that counter prescribing is not a standard trade practice in drugstores, his attention should be called to an article in the last November issue of the magazine called the American Druggist. The title of this article is "A Billion Dollar Sneeze." The article presents many correct facts about colds. Then tucked away at the end, next to advertisements of Tablets and Cough Drops, are five steps to cold prevention by means of which the druggist is assured his sales will increase. The first step is Vitamins. "Science," according to this magazine, has proved "that the Vitamin A and D content of fish-liver oils helps in the treatment of colds." This is opportunity number one. The second step is a laxative! Concerning this the magazine states, "The laxative treatment you recommend can be a $0.10 item or a $1.25 sale." The third step has to do with sales possibilities in nose drops, jellies, sprays, and inhalants; and the fourth step cashes in on "any one of a number of mouth washes and gargles." In the fifth step the customer gets over on the alkaline side with milk of magnesia and antacid powders and tablets. And the climax:

Clerks should be taught the practical advantage of solicitous inquiries about the customer's symptoms. Muscular pains, sore throat, headache, clogged nasal passages, chills, chest pains, and coughs each may be the basis for the sale of a product over and above what the customer came in to buy. Get your share of this billion dollar business and you will make money out of sneezes and sniffles.

I firmly believe that the whole universe is inter-connected. Our body, mind and spirit are deeply rooted with each other. If body is sick, the mind cannot relax or feel good. And if mind is not relaxed, it will give birth to stress and that will lead to chronic health problems.

So, it is clear that in order to posses a sound body we must have a calm and peaceful mind. Without a sound mind we cannot expect our potential growth or development.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/9706719


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