The common cold is a mild, acute (short-term) viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (the nose, throat and windpipe). We all succumb to colds at one time or another and yet knowing they are part and parcel of everyday life makes them no easier to bear.
- Runny nose
- Sore Throat
What causes a cold?
Colds occur if you breathe in or touch a surface (and then touch your nose or mouth) which is contaminated with the common cold virus. The virus is contained in tiny droplets that spread from the mouth or nose when a person coughs or sneezes.
How to treat a cold
- Drink plenty to replenish fluids lost due to sweating and a runny nose.
- Get lots of rest
- Eat healthily taking in plenty of fresh fruit and veg.
- Use a steam inhalation. This involves sitting with your head over a bowl of hot water, with a towel over you and breathing deeply to allow the steam to help loosen mucus and make your nose easier to blow.
- Inhalations containing menthol and essential oils will also help ease nasal congestion. You can add menthol, eucalyptus, camphor, thymol or pine oil to your own steam inhalation.
- Take decongestants (medication designed to reduce nasal congestion) such as pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine and xylometazoline which work by reducing inflammation in your nose and sinuses making it easier to breathe. These come in various forms including tablets and sprays but should not be used long-term as they can make the condition worse.
- Gargle with salt water or suck a throat lozenge to relieve sore throat symptoms
- Use over-the-counter cold medicine or take painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol or aspirin to lower high temperatures and relieve aches. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid doubling-up on medicines.
- Cough remedy containing an expectorant such as guaifenesin to remove mucus from the airways, or those containing an antitussive such as dextromethorphan for a dry tickly cough.
- For children, apply a vapour rub to their chest or back or use nasal saline drops or a spray to help them breathe more easily. If using painkillers ensure they are suitable for kids.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
Some people think supplements including zinc, vitamins D and C and echinacea help to curb colds - the research is inconclusive.