10 Home Remedies for Colds
Headache. Stuffy nose. Cough. Fever. Itchy eyes. Sore throat. Muscle aches. If you're like most people, you know the symptoms of the common cold all too well. Although Americans spend billions of dollars annually on doctor visits and cold remedies (everything from tissues and vitamin C to over-the-counter decongestants and herbal teas), there is no cure for the common cold. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make your recovery easier. In this article we'll discuss all aspects of the cold, including home remedies, when you should call a doctor, and how to avoid passing on your cold to innocent bystanders. To begin, we will discuss the origins and causes of the common cold.
A cold is an upper respiratory infection caused by any one of hundreds of different viruses. Unfortunately, scientists haven't figured out how to wipe out these viruses. The body has to rely on its own natural defenses.During a cold, virus particles penetrate the mucous layer of the nose and throat and attach themselves to cells there. The viruses punch holes in the cell membranes, allowing viral genetic material to enter the cells.
Within a short time, the virus takes over and forces the cells to produce thousands of new virus particles.In response to this viral invasion, the body marshals its defenses: The nose and throat release chemicals that spark the immune system; injured cells produce chemicals called prostaglandins, which trigger inflammation and attract infection-fighting white blood cells; tiny blood vessels stretch, opening up space to allow blood fluid (plasma) and specialized white cells to enter the infected area; the body temperature rises, enhancing the immune response; and histamine is released, increasing the production of nasal mucus in an effort to trap viral particles and remove them from the body.As the battle against the cold virus rages on, the body counterattacks with its heavy artillery: specialized white blood cells called monocytes and lymphocytes; interferon, often called the "body's own antiviral drug"; and 20 or more proteins that circulate in the blood plasma and coat the viruses and infected cells, making it easier for the white blood cells to identify and destroy them.The symptoms you experience as a cold are actually the body's natural immune response. In fact, by the time you feel like you're coming down with a cold, you've likely already been
infected for a day and a half.
Once you are infected, however, you can try to ease some of the aches and pains. In the next section, we will review some home remedies for relieving cold symptoms.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd. the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
How Colds are Spread
The cold virus can take many routes to its ultimate destination -- your cells. Most people are contagious a day before and two to four days after their symptoms start. Here are the typical ways a cold virus is spread:
- Touching someone who has the virus (such as shaking hands) or something that contains the virus (such as touching a doorknob or grocery cart). The virus can live for three hours on skin and objects. Once the virus is passed to your skin, it's a simple matter for it to be transported to your own mucus membranes -- for example, when you rub your eye, eat finger foods, or touch your nose. That's why it's important to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially before eating.
- Inhaling the virus through airborne transmission. It may sound implausible, but if someone sitting next to you sneezes while you are inhaling, voila! It's likely you'll get a cold.
One study found that kids tend to get colds from more direct contact, while adults tend to get colds from airborne viruses (moms of young children can expect to get colds both ways). Research has also found that emotional stress, allergies that affect the nasal passages or throat, and menstrual cycles may make you more susceptible to catching a cold.