Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Health Care and Common Colds

This time of year, many people are afflicted with sore throats, runny noses and sniffles, and other symptoms that physicians refer to as the common cold. When you get one of these, you feel pretty awful for a few days. But life does go on. Dealing with the inconvenience of this malady is what everyone has done no matter whether you are male or female, adult or child, or wherever you live. Colds are common, and they are a nuisance. However, in most cases, they are not fatal. It is possible that with neglect, they could develop into something worse. But, for the most part, colds are limited in scope as to how they affect your health care.

According to the Health section in the NY Times, It is called the “common cold” for good reason. There are over one billion colds in the United States each year. You and your children will probably have more colds than any other type of illness. Colds are the most common reason that children miss school and parents miss work. Parents often get colds from their children. Children typically get up to eight colds every year. They usually get them from other children. A cold can spread quickly through schools or daycares. Colds can occur at any time of the year, but they are most common in the winter or rainy seasons. A cold virus spreads through tiny, air droplets that are released when the sick person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose. People are most contagious for the first 2 or 3 days, but not usually after the first week of the cold. You can catch a cold if:

--A person with a cold sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you
--You touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contamined by the virus, such as a toy or doorknob.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Cold symptoms usually occur within 2 or 3 days after you came in contact with the virus, although it could take up to a week. Symptoms mostly affect the nose. The most common cold symptoms are:

•Nasal congestion
•Runny nose
•Scratchy throat
•Sneezing

Adults and older children with colds generally have a low fever or no fever. Young children often run a fever around 100-102°F. Depending on which virus caused your cold, you may also have:

•Cough
•Decreased appetite
•Headache
•Muscle aches
•Postnasal drip
•Sore throat

There are a variety of treatments when you get a cold. According to NIH,  you should get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

1.) COLD MEDICINES: Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children. They do not make your cold go away faster, but can help you feel better. Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children under age 6. Talk to your doctor before giving your child any type of over-the-counter or nonprescription cough medicine, even if the label says it is made for children. These medicines likely will not work for children, and may have serious side effects.

2.) ANTIBIOTICS: Antibiotics should not be used to treat a common cold. They will not help and may make the situation worse. Thick yellow or green nasal discharge normally occurs with a cold after a few days. If it does not get better within 10 to 14 days, then your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

3.) OTHER MEDICINES: Newer antiviral drugs used to relieve flu symptoms do not help reduce cold symptoms.

4.) ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS--Alternative treatments that have been used for colds include:
•Chicken soup--this remedy has been used for centuries, and it really helps. The heat, fluid, and salt helps to fight infection.
•Vitamin C--very popular. Research shows it does not prevent colds in many adults, but those who take it regularly seem to have slightly shorter colds and milder symptoms. Taking Vitamin C after you have the cold does not seem to be helpful.
•Zinc--Supplements taken for at least 5 days may reduce your risk of catching the common cold. Taking a zinc supplement within 24 hours of when you first feel sick may make your cold symptoms less severe and help them go away faster.
•Echinacea--this herb has been promoted as a natural way for preventing colds and the flu, and for making symptoms less severe. However, high quality studies have failed to show that echinacea helps prevent or treat colds.

Alternative treatments are safe for most people. However, some alternative treatments may cause side effects or allergic reactions. For example, some people are allergic to echinacea. Herbs and supplements may also change the way other medicines work. Talk to your doctor before trying an alternative treatment.

You may not be able to cure your common cold, but you can make yourself as comfortable as possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, these tips may help:

--Drink lots of fluids. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water are all good choices. They help replace fluids lost during mucus production or fever. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can cause dehydration, and cigarette smoke, which can aggravate your symptoms.

--Try chicken soup. Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children's mouths. Now scientists have put chicken soup to the test, discovering that it does seem to help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that help the body's response to inflammation. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the time viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.

--Get some rest. If possible, stay home from work if you have a fever or a bad cough, or are drowsy after the medications. This will give you a chance to rest as well as reduce the chances that you'll infect others. Wear a mask when you have a cold if you live or work with someone with a chronic disease or compromised immune system.

--Adjust your room's temperature and humidity. Keep your room warm, but not overheated. If the air is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds.

--Soothe your throat. A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1.2 milliliters to 2.5 milliliters) salt dissolved in an 8-ounce (237 milliliters) glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. Use saline nasal drops. To help relieve nasal congestion, try saline nasal drops. You can buy these drops over-the-counter, and they're effective, safe and nonirritating, even for children. In infants, experts recommend instilling several saline drops into one nostril, then gently suctioning that nostril with a bulb syringe (push the bulb in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, or about 6 to 12 millimeters). Doing this before feeding your baby can improve your child's ability to nurse or take a bottle, and before bedtime it may improve sleep. Saline nasal sprays may be used in older children.

Here are five proven ways, according to the NY Times, to help lower your chances of getting sick:

--Always wash your hands: Children and adults should wash hands after nose-wiping, diapering, and using the bathroom, and before eating and preparing food.
--Disinfect: Clean commonly touched surfaces (such as sink handles, door knobs, and sleeping mats) with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
--Choose smaller daycare classes: Attending a day care where there are six or fewer children dramatically reduces the spread of germs.
--Use instant hand sanitizers: These products use alcohol to destroy germs. They are an antiseptic, not an antibiotic, so resistance can't develop. A little dab will kill 99.99% of germs without any water or towels.
--Use paper towels instead of sharing cloth towels.

The immune system helps your body fight off infection. Here are six ways to support the immune system:
--Avoid secondhand smoke: Keep as far away from secondhand smoke as possible. It is responsible for many health problems, including colds.
--Avoid unnecessary antibiotics: Using antibiotics too often leads to antibiotic resistance. The more you use antibiotics, the more likely the medicines may not work as well for you in the future. That means, you have a higher chance of getting sick with longer, more stubborn infections.
--Breastfeed: Breast milk is known to protect against respiratory tract infections in children, even years after you stop breastfeeding. Kids who are not breastfeed get about five times more ear infections than those who are.
--Drink water: Fluids help your immune system work properly.
--Eat yogurt: Certain yogurst contains "active cultures," or beneficial bacteria that helps prevent colds.
--Get enough sleep: Not getting enough sleep makes you more likely to get sick.

The common cold is going to happen to you at some point in your life, and more than likely multiple times. Following practical advice about prevention and exposure helps to keep you healthier over time, but sooner or later, you are going to get another cold. Do your best to muddle through when you have one, and be careful with your actions to not spread your cold to others. See your doctor if necessary, but know that the average cold runs about 7-10 days in length. In the mean time, stock up on tissues and cough lozenges.
 
Until next time.

1 comment:

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