Who hasn’t had a cold? That sniffling, sneezing, coughing, stuffy head, fever, aching, headache (to steal liberally from a NyQuil commercial) that sneaks up on you and makes you wish you were dying, because surely that can’t be half as miserable… And who among us hasn’t gone to the doctor at least once, convinced that they WERE dying, only to be told “Sorry, it’s a cold, there’s nothing we can do for you… you’ll just have to let it run its course…”. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, and there are hundreds of products claiming to cure or at least relieve colds, some validly, most not.

Here’s a little explanation of what a cold is, what you can do for it, and what people have done, and sometimes still do, in their desperate quest for relief.

The Viruses.

More than 200 different viruses are known to cause the symptoms of the common cold. Some, such as the rhinoviruses, seldom produce serious illnesses. Others, such as parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus, produce mild infections in adults but can precipitate severe lower respiratory infections in young children.

Rhinoviruses (from the Greek rhin, meaning "nose") cause an estimated 30 to 35 percent of all adult colds, and are most active in early fall, spring and summer. More than 110 distinct rhinovirus types have been identified. These agents grow best at temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (about 91 degrees Fahrenheit (F)), the temperature of the human nasal mucosa.

Coronaviruses are believed to cause a large percentage of all adult colds. They induce colds primarily in the winter and early spring. Of the more than 30 isolated strains, three or four infect humans. The importance of coronaviruses as causative agents is hard to assess because, unlike rhinoviruses, they are difficult to grow in the laboratory.

Approximately 10 to 15 percent of adult colds are caused by viruses also responsible for other, more severe illnesses: adenoviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, orthomyxoviruses (including influenza A and B viruses), paramyxoviruses (including several parainfluenza viruses), respiratory syncytial virus and enteroviruses.

The causes of 30 to 50 percent of adult colds, presumed to be viral, remain unidentified. The same viruses that produce colds in adults appear to cause colds in children. The relative importance of various viruses in pediatric colds, however, is unclear because of the difficulty in isolating the precise cause of symptoms in studies of children with colds.

Research suggests that psychological stress, allergic disorders affecting the nasal passages or pharynx (throat), and menstrual cycles may have an impact on a person's susceptibility to colds. However, research has found no correlation between bad weather or getting chilled and developing a cold. New research shows that although being cold does not lead to higher rates of infection, the nasal vasoconstriction caused by being cold can keep your body from as effectively fighting an existing infection, which may have previously been subclinical (i.e. the symptoms were not strong enough to have been noticed).

The Cold Season

In the United States, most colds occur during the fall and winter. Beginning in late August or early September, the incidence of colds increases slowly for a few weeks and remains high until March or April, when it declines. The seasonal variation may relate to the opening of schools and to cold weather, which prompt people to spend more time indoors and increase the chances that viruses will spread from person to person.

Seasonal changes in relative humidity also may affect the prevalence of colds. The most common cold-causing viruses survive better when humidity is low—the colder months of the year. Cold weather also may make the nasal passages' lining drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.

Cold Symptoms

Symptoms of the common cold usually begin two to three days after infection and often include nasal discharge, obstruction of nasal breathing, swelling of the sinus membranes, sneezing, sore throat, cough, and headache. Fever is usually slight but can climb to 102o F in infants and young children. Cold symptoms can last from two to 14 days, but two-thirds of people recover in a week. If symptoms occur often or last much longer than two weeks, they may be the result of an allergy rather than a cold.

Colds occasionally can lead to secondary bacterial infections of the middle ear or sinuses, requiring treatment with antibiotics. High fever, significantly swollen glands, severe facial pain in the sinuses, and a cough that produces mucus, may indicate a complication or more serious illness requiring a doctor's attention.

Cold symptoms: the body fights back.

Cold symptoms are probably the result of the body's immune response to the viral invasion. Virus-infected cells in the nose send out signals that recruit specialized white blood cells to the site of the infection. In turn, these cells emit a range of immune system chemicals such as kinins. These chemicals probably lead to the symptoms of the common cold by causing swelling and inflammation of the nasal membranes, leakage of proteins and fluid from capillaries and lymph vessels, and the increased production of mucus.

Kinins and other chemicals released by immune system cells in the nasal membranes are the subject of intensive research. Researchers are examining whether drugs to block them, or the receptors on cells to which they bind, might benefit people with colds.

A cold vaccine?

The development of a vaccine that could prevent the common cold has reached an impasse because of the discovery of many different cold viruses. Each virus carries its own specific antigens, substances that induce the formation of specific protective proteins (antibodies) produced by the body. Until ways are found to combine many viral antigens in one vaccine, or take advantage of the antigenic cross-relationships that exist, prospects for a vaccine are dim. Evidence that changes occur in common-cold virus antigens further complicate development of a vaccine. Such changes occur in some influenza virus antigens and make it necessary to alter the influenza vaccine each year.

Some things that may help to relieve the symptoms of a cold include:

Current cold treatments: Real or Malarkey?

Colloidal silver, hydrogen peroxide, Zicam Nasal Gel, Interferon alpha, Ipratropium bromide, /msg me with other ‘breakthrough’ cold cures
(coming soon to a writeup near you)

Traditional cold cures of many cultures:

(coming soon to a writeup near you)

no, it's not done, but m_turner has been pestering me unmercifully about this, and I have about 30(I just realized to my horror when I tried to print it for easier editing that I have,in fact,) 80 pages of traditional cures to sift through, so... here's a start...



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