There are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold. A typical adult gets two to four colds a year, a child six to 10 a year. Although there still is no cure for the common cold, there are many things you can do to prevent or minimize the duration of symptoms.
The symptoms of a cold are usually mild and annoying – sore throat, stuffy nose, cough and/or congestion. This illness is self-limited, meaning the body will heal itself, given time and patience. A typically viral illness lasts two to 10 days.
When contemplating whether to take an over-the-counter product, here are some helpful tips:
Zinc is an essential mineral found in the body. It assists the body’s defense in fighting infections and aids in tissue repair. It also appears to have antiviral properties – preventing a virus from attaching to the mucous membranes inside the nose, therefore preventing it from replicating.
Zinc needs to be taken within the first 24 hours of onset of symptoms, but no more than five days. Research has shown that products like zinc lozenges can shorten cold symptoms from seven to four days, and reduce a cough from five to two days. However, caution if using Zicam nasal formulation, as people have reported a loss of smell.
Echinacea is a wild flower that grows in the Midwest. This product can boost the immune system, therefore helping prevent or fight off a viral illness. A typical dose is 900 milligrams a day. However, follow prescribing directions on the package, as strength and dosing varies from one manufacture to another.
Also, do not take echinacea if you have an autoimmune disorder (i.e., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS), multiple sclerosis, leukemia or tuberculosis.
Airborne is essentially a combination of zinc and tchinacea, as well as multiple other ingredients such as vitamin A, C, E, magnesium, potassium, sodium, selenium and amino acids. This product claims to prevent a cold by boosting the immune system. Ideally this product should be taken starting two to three days prior to going into crowded places, and not to exceed three doses in a given day. Again, follow the dosing direction on the package.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin found naturally in fruits and selected vegetables. Proper amounts of vitamin C are needed to maintain a strong immune system. An adequate daily supplement is 500 mg a day.
Vitamin D also is important for a strong immune system. Adequate amounts of this vitamin are also essential in order to properly absorb calcium and keep bones strong. An adult over-the-counter supplement
is typically 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily, especially for those living in Western Washington state, due to the lack of consistent sun exposure.
Dr. Linda Patter of Auburn is a weekly feature on KOMO TV/News Radio in Seattle (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) every Sunday live 7:45 a.m., and a columnist for the Auburn Reporter. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer health care advocate, and her books, “Healthcare On a Budget”, and “Common Medical Sense” are available on Amazon.com. Please visit her website, www.DocForAll.com, or call her office at 253-568-0841.