Cold Season 101

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Saturday 16th October 2010
In this article
  • What is a cold?
  • Mom’s favorite remedies.
  • Today’s best medicine.

It’s that time of year when days get short, football invades the networks and the night air becomes more and more crisp with each passing week. You know what that means … it’s cold season.

There’s no need to fear, though. Your next few months don’t have to be about sniffles, fever, runny nose and nagging cough. With today’s newest remedies and yesterday’s old standbys, you can tackle any cold like the SharpMan we know you are.

Whatchya Got?

The first step to treating your cold is to determine if it’s really a cold in the first place. Compare your symptoms with the following:

If It’s A Cold:

  • Fever and headache are rarely present.
  • Fatigue, weakness, aches and pains are mild.
  • No extreme exhaustion.
  • Stuffy nose and sore throat are very likely.
  • Sneezing more than usual.
  • Some chest discomfort and a hacking cough.

If It’s The Flu:

  • Fever that lasts for 3-4 days and can be 100 degrees or higher.
  • Headaches and exhaustion.
  • Aches and pains and fatigue that lingers, sometimes for a couple of weeks.
  • Stuffy nose or sore throat may be present, but not necessarily.
  • Coughing is common and may be severe.

SharpNote: Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses. The difference is that the virus that causes the flu has been identified, but the many, many culprits who could be behind a cold have not. This explains why there’s a flu shot, but no "cure" for the common cold.

Once you know which bug is buggin’ you, you can treat your symptoms.

  • First, give yourself a break. Let your body focus on getting well rather contending with everything else around you. Keep warm and get some rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids, especially hot liquids. The whole "chicken soup when you have a cold" isn’t just something for little old ladies. Hot liquids actually help relieve nasal congestion, prevent dehydration and sooth the inflamed membranes in your nose and throat.

SharpNote: There is also strong evidence to suggest that the mineral zinc, found in chicken and chicken soup, is excellent for getting you over a cold. So if you’re sick now, stop reading and call the deli…

  • Rub salve on your chest and under your nose. Something like Vicks VapoRub will help you breathe easier and will also soothe the sore skin around your nose — which is inevitable when you are constantly blowing your nose, no matter how soft the tissue. Another tool for opening up your congestion is a humidifier, which is great for loosening that tight feeling in your chest and at allowing you to breathe easier, which sometimes seems impossible when lying down. Getting a little sleep is much easier when you can breathe.
  • Take your vitamins. Take Vitamin C in the highest recommended doses. The nice thing about this water-soluble vitamin is that your body tells you when it can’t use any more by giving you a soft stool. So use it till you "loose" Also, visit your health food store for the herb Echinacea, believed to aid in antiviral activity against the influenza virus, and zinc, now understood to decrease the duration and severity of colds (see SharpNote above).

Hitting the Pharmacy

As far as modern medicine is concerned, there are a few new products out there to try. One reason colds are more common during the cold months is that people spend more time indoors, which means they spend more time in close proximity to more people and more germs. A new product on the market called Airborne was developed with this "problem" in mind. This "Effervescent Health Formula" contains seven herbs that are supposed help fight the viruses that cause colds.

For those guys already suffering who need to get better fast, try Zicam. This over-the-counter product claims to help you get over your cold three times faster than normal. You can also choose the Zicam that will target the symptoms you are suffering from most, from Zicam Cough Mist or Zicam Cold Remedy to Zicam Congestion Relief.

For that stuffy nose, try a decongestant or nasal spray. Afrin has a number of sprays and "mists" that offer 12 hours of relief. Breathe Right Strips are another great option, especially at night when trying to get some much-needed rest.

For your fever and aches and pains, Advil Cold and Sinus or other cold medicines that contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen are good choices. Many cold and flu medicines, such as Nyquil or Alka-Seltzer Cold & Cough, contain a pain reliever but also contain other ingredients to sooth and relieve your other symptoms — so take a look at the label. Remember, your aim is to treat, not over-treat — your symptoms.

For that cough and sore throat, keep plenty of lozenges on hand. Cough drops such as Fisherman’s Friend and Halls, which contain menthol, are great for soothing your throat and suppressing your cough by coating your throat. If the menthol is too much for you to handle, try Halls’ new Fruit Breezers. They don’t contain menthol but have a light mint flavor that refreshes and soothes without overpowering.

Overall Cold Prevention

To get a jump on cold and flu season, consider these prevention tips:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap, not just after using the restroom, but periodically throughout the day. Your hands touch more things that you probably realize (i.e., doorknobs, phones) and are easy carriers of germs.
  • Don’t touch your face. Since you can’t wash your hands every five minutes (well at least most of us can’t), try not to touch your face and expose your nose and mouth to cold and flu causing germs.
  • Get some fresh air. Since people more commonly congregate indoors in the cold fall and winter months, make a point of spending time outdoors and away from all that recycled, germy air.
  • Don’t smoke or try to cut back. Studies indicate that smokers get more severe colds and get them more frequently than non-smokers.
  • Sleep well. The more run-down you are, the more ill-prepared your body will be to fight off opportunistic viruses, like those that cause colds and flus.
  • Exercise. Doing cardiovascular exercise also helps strengthen your immune system.
  • Flu shot. Flu shots were invented for a reason — they help prevent the spread of the influenza virus. So get yours before cold season kicks in — like ASAP*. At around $10, the shot is well worth your investment. And don’t worry, a flu shot won’t cause you to get the flu.

SharpNote: Currently, at publication time, flu shots in the USA are in dangerously short supply. A health advisory has been issued asking healthy adults, with no disorders compromising immunity, to refrain from getting flu shots so all those available can be directed to infants and the elderly, who really need them.

This article last updated on Saturday 16th October 2010
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