Nasal sprays, zinc lozenges, mega-doses of Vitamin C, chicken soup. They’re all thought to be cures for the common cold. But do they work? The truth is none of these “remedies” have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as being effective at preventing or curing colds. The best way to keep acute viral nasopharyngitis or acute coryza, otherwise known as the common cold, at bay is the same as it always has been. Avoid infected people, avoid touching your mouth and face and wash your hands. And speaking of washing your hands, forget thinking you must only use anti-bacterial soaps because they don’t have any more effect on the cold virus as generic hand soaps have, hence the name “anti-bacterial”. It’s purely the mechanical process of hand-washing that removes the cold virus particles. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t have any effect on the common cold virus either. The common cold and cold weather do not go hand-in-hand. With the cold weather comes the necessity of being inside, often with many other people, thus providing the opportunity for a higher rate of exposure to the virus.
Most common colds are caused by rhinoviruses. There are no immunizations to prevent the common cold because it’s a viral infection and not a bacterial infection. This also means there are no antibiotics either. The now common practice of automatically prescribing antibiotics just leads to more drug resistant infections. It becomes an entirely different matter when a cold progresses to something more serious such as bronchitis, sinusitis, pneumonia and other opportunistic coinfections and superinfections because those can be treated with antibiotics.
Save your money and don’t buy those nasal sprays meant to prevent colds. They’re just not going to work. If you do get a cold there are things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms. Decongestants, pain relievers and cough medicines are all effective ways to help make a cold a little more tolerable. I, myself, do not use nasal decongestants. I find they work for awhile, but when they wear off my nasal passages are even more swollen than before, causing a need for more nasal decongestant and so on. Steam inhalation has also been proven to be ineffective and can also be dangerous. There have been reports of children being badly burned when inhaling steam to alleviate cold symptoms.
Most colds last about seven days and, while they can be a discomfort, most times you just have to wait it out. And have you ever wondered why it seems that just when you’re getting over a cold you seem to get it right back? It’s actually not the “same” cold. The common cold virus mutates frequently during reproduction resulting in constantly changing virus strains. Colds have been around since ancient Egyptian times so chances are it’s not going anywhere. It’s just a nuisance we’re going to have to continue to live with.