Rhinoviruses are generally credited with causing the “common cold.” Coryza is a profuse discharge from the mucous membranes of the nose. Consequently, the rhinoviruses are sometimes referred to as coryzaviruses. There are approximately 115 different rhinovirus serotypes that have been identified. These viruses grow best at 33C (91.4°F), but have adapted to grow in the cooler superficial tissues of the nasal cavity. They die when exposed to temperatures higher than those of the nose and throat, and cannot live long enough in the lungs to cause pneumonia. Therefore, if a cold turns into pneumonia, another virus or bacterial agent is responsible.
Much of the symptomatology of the common cold is caused by the release of histamine from the mast cells that cause a reaction stimulated by viral tissue damage. The released histamine induces such symptoms as increased mucus secretions, watery eyes, and sneezing. Attacks of the common cold occur repeatedly, partly because of the large number of serotypes and partly because of the relatively short duration of immunity by the IgA antibody response. Various other viruses are also able to cause cold-like symptoms. The “cold” viruses are known to last for hours in dried mucus found on such objects as skin, plastic, wood, fabrics, Kleenex tissues, etc. Good handwashing is the best preventative, along with keeping the hands away from the nose and mouth.
Since there is no cure for the common cold, treatments are symptomatic and can be found in a variety of ways. Over-the-counter nasal sprays containing oxymetazolone (Afrin) or phenylephrine (Allerest) can provide almost immediate relief from nasal congestion. However, they can be addictive after a few days, causing even more congestion that soon becomes chronic. Other side effects include headaches, excitability, and restlessness. Echinacea is commonly used for colds, and has shown that it can reduce the duration and severity of them. Many herbs taken as teas provide some relief, especially any mint species. Catnip is popular to promote sweating, as is elecampane (Inula helenium), which is also good for coughs. Spicy herbs can help the deadened taste buds at such a time, as well as giving a boost to the immune system. Garlic is an infamous antimicrobial, as is cayenne, which will also clear the sinuses, relieving nasal congestion and pain. Both Vitamin C and zinc help shorten the duration of colds, but, by strengthening the immune system beforehand, these nutrients stand a better possibility of being effective at the first sign of an approaching illness.
According to the January 1987 Journal of Infectious Diseases, proteins called “kinins” seem to be the chief cause of painful nasal congestion. These are released from plasma proteins activated by enzymes. Kinins in the blood cause an expansion of blood vessels, which permits fluid to leak into surrounding tissue. This fluid accumulates and presses on nerve endings, causing the characteristic cold symptoms. Kinin levels increase as symptoms appear and then decrease as those same symptoms gradually fade away. Interestingly, while kinin levels increase by 20-80 fold in those affected with colds, there was not a corresponding rise in the histamine levels. This suggests that antihistimines are worthless as effective cold remedies.
Studies done have shown that those suffering from cold symptoms displayed a slower motor performance in hand-eye coordination tests, but their performance was not affected in a visual search exercise. Flu, on the other hand, impaired the visual task, but did not affect the motor skill. Therefore, relatively minor bouts of cold or flu can significantly hamper people whose duties require a high level of attention or hand-eye coordination.Psychological Medicine (vol.18,1989, p.65) observed that, while the symptoms of cold and flu are the greatest in the morning, the highest impairment of performance takes place in the afternoon. According to 106 studies of the common cold, only twenty-seven were scientifically validated. It was concluded that, while commercial cold remedies relieve some symptoms in adults and adolescents, they do nothing for children, especially those under the age of six. Ironically, it was these children who were more often overdosed. However, these same studies concluded that bee propolis did have an amazing effect on colds in children. It was suggested that the bee propolis be diluted in water and gargled, swallowed, or used as a nasal spray.
Coronaviruses (adenovirus) are another group behind the common cold. Colds can actually be caused by a variety of viruses – rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, coxsackieviruses, picornavirus family or adenoviruses. But, when one is suffering, the source is of little importance. The coronaviruses were named for their crown of club-shaped thorns as seen through an electron microscope. They cause colds mainly in the winter and spring when the rhinoviruses are at a low ebb. They need only about three days of multiplying in the respiratory tract before the victim starts feeling miserable. On average, colds from these viruses last a few days less than from a rhinovirus, but cause more nasal congestion. Plus, they are good at reinfecting.
Ten Ways to Cope With a Cold:
- Get plenty of rest. The immune system can only repair itself during times of deep sleep. At other times, the nutrients go to other parts of the body first.
- Drink plenty of water, fruit juice, and quality soups. These keep the secretions thin and running. Thick secretions allow bacteria to grow, causing a secondary infection. The Mayo Clinic Health Letter (Sept. 24-28, 1984) suggests a soup with plenty of garlic and onions and vegetables, but no meat. Hot herbal teas may also help, but no caffeine drinks.
- Avoid any type of medication, prescription or over-the-counter. Even a Tylenol or aspirin can shut down the immune system for at least five hours. During this time, viruses and bacteria are allowed to enter the body uninhibited.
- Keep stress to a minimum. Stress lowers the immune system. Having a cold or flu indicates an already lowered immunity.
- Avoid dairy products, which concentrates mucous. Avoid meat, sugar, flour, and processed food. The immune system is already at risk during an illness, and these food items do not contribute to badly needed nourishment, but, instead, slow down the system, allowing time for microbial growth.
- Wash hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough. Germs can spread quite a distance from a cough or a sneeze, exposing others to the risk of illness, and for this reason as well, avoid crowds. Not only could you expose others to your illness, but, with a lowered immune system during an illness, you are at greater risk for a second illness. Not only that, but just visualize how many times you might have shaken hands with someone who did not wash his hands after a sneeze or a cough. Could this be the reason you are now ill?
- Avoid extremely warm rooms. People are actually healthier living in cooler climes – both interior and exterior. Open the windows and freshen the air at least daily. It is healthier to put on a sweater than upping the thermostat – cheaper, too.
- Do not eat in public places. Not only does this pose a risk for others, but for yourself for the same reason as #6. It has been noted that those who eat ethnic foods containing garlic, onions, and hot peppers have significantly fewer bouts of any illness.
- Fortify yourself with healthy foods. If this were done on a daily basis rather than only during a physical crisis, there would be significantly fewer bouts of illness.
- Immunologic reactions to foods commonly called “food allergies” are examples of the diet/immune system relationship. Allergy occurs in protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) which is observed in cancer, bacterial/viral infections, multiple trauma, burns, uremia, liver disorders etc. All this inspite of the fact that enormous quantities of protein are consumed daily. The problem lies with the deficiencies of necessary nutrients needed to properly convert, absorb, and utilize that protein.