Winter Tips: A Survival Guide for the Common Cold
As a Canadian, I can assure you that I’ve seen my fair share of winters. Though I appreciate the change in seasons as much as anyone, the one thing I don’t appreciate or look forward to is suffering from the symptoms of the common cold.
For all the incredible advances in medicine over the past twenty years including stem-cell research, electronic health records, robotic surgery, and interventional radiology, we’re still seemingly miles away from discovering the elusive cure for the common cold.
One reason that it’s difficult to find a cure for the common cold is because it’s actually a viral syndrome caused by several different potential viruses with symptoms including runny nose, cough, sneezing, mild fever, sore throat and nasal obstruction. The common cold is most commonly caused by rhinoviruses of which there are over 100 antigenic types, but it can also be causes by a number of other viruses including coronaviruses and adenoviruses among others. These viruses can either be spread by direct contact or aerosols.
Tips to Prevent the Common Cold
To date, the most effect method of preventing the common cold remains hand washing. Obviously, I’m not the first to promulgate this information, but I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize its importance. Once again, wash your hands often!
Second tip: Stay away from children. Obviously, I’m joking here since this tip is neither feasible nor at all reasonable. However, studies do suggest that adults with frequent exposure to children do have more colds per year than adults who have less exposure. Seriously.
Get the flu vaccine. Though the flu vaccine isn’t designed to prevent the common cold, it is designed to prevent the seasonal flu which has far more serious symptoms. No, the flu shot can’t give you the flu since it uses killed viruses though it can trigger an immune response with some symptoms including a mild fever and muscle aches.
Quit Smoking. Studies suggest that cigarette smokers typically suffer from cold symptoms for a longer duration than non-smokers.
Limit air travel? Research suggests what many of us probably already suspect in that travel on airplanes is associated with an increased risk of catching a cold.
Stay happy and social? Some research suggests that those who’re depressed or anxious may have a greater susceptibility to rhinovirus infection. What’s more is that other research has found that those with greater social ties or networks may have greater resistance to respiratory viruses.
Many people believe that vitamin D is effective in preventing infection with the common cold. However, research is still inconclusive regarding its impact on preventing the common cold. Regardless, studies do suggest that those with vitamin D deficiencies have a greater susceptibility. Personally, I do supplement with 2000 IU of vitamin d during the winter months.
Herbal Remedies for the Common Cold
Depending on where you live, this particular herbal supplement may or may not be available. I personally use it when I have a cold and find it to be helpful for relieving nasal congestion. It’s efficacy is also supported by a research studies .
Some studies do suggest that vitamin C can be effective for preventing colds and reducing the duration (about a day) in athletes exposed to extreme environments such as skiers .
One recently published study found that giving children between the ages of 24-60 months 2.5ml of honey before bed time provided more symptomatic relief than dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) or diphenhydramine .
Depending on the type of warm beverage you drink, it may or may not have a herbal component. Either way, drinking green tea or even having some chicken soup seems to make most people feel better temporarily at least.
Other Symptomatic Management
For me personally, other than getting a yearly flu shot, taking vitamin D supplements during the winter months and using andrographis supplements when I do have a cold, the only two other things worth mentioning are nasal saline irrigation and cough drops.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but nasal irrigation with isotonic saline wash does have some research to support its use . Personally, I find that it seems to reduce nasal congestion when I have a cold for roughly 2-3 hours per use.
Again with the full disclosure that you’ll see at the end of this post, it is sponsored by HALLS. However, I agreed to write this article because I actually do use HALLS cough drops regularly when I have a cold. In Canada, you can buy them nearly everywhere and I do find them helpful particularly for relieving sore throat symptoms.
Disclosure of compensation and Brand Statement
HALLS Warm-Ups are unique soothing drops that are warm and cool in one. Menthol vapors cool nasal passages while the warming sensation gently warms and soothes throats. Available in two delicious flavors: Apple Cider & Mocha Mint.
- Japanese Society of Chemotherapy Committee/Japanese Association for Anaerobic Infection Research guideline on anaerobic infections (individual fields): respiratory infections (J Infect Chemother 2011 Jul).
- Heimer KA, Hart AM, Martin LG, Rubio-Wallace S. Examining the evidence for the use of vitamin C in the prophylaxis and treatment of the common cold. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2009 May;21(5):295-300.
- Shadkam MN, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Mozayan MR. A comparison of the effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and diphenhydramine on nightly cough and sleep quality in children and their parents. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jul;16(7):787-93.
- Saxena RC, Singh R, Kumar P, Yadav SC, Negi MP, Saxena VS, Joshua AJ, Vijayabalaji V, Goudar KS, Venkateshwarlu K, Amit A. A randomized double blind placebo controlled clinical evaluation of extract of Andrographis paniculata (KalmCold) in patients with uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection. Phytomedicine. 2010 Mar;17(3-4):178-85. Epub 2010 Jan 25.
- Slapak I, Skoupá J, Strnad P, Horník P. Efficacy of isotonic nasal wash (seawater) in the treatment and prevention of rhinitis in children. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2008 Jan;134(1):67-74.