It's only February and I've already had the flu and two colds this year. I don't get it! I use hand sanitizer like it's going out of style, eat well, sleep tons, and never share food/drinks. Why am I getting so sick???
Jennifer Ackerman has some of the answers for me. Her book, Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold, looks into, you guessed it, the common cold (which, by the way, isn't one strain of a virus, but a plethora of viruses. That's why we can get sick over and over again...) I'm sure I'm not alone when I complain that we can put a man on the moon and yet we can't cure the sniffles. Ackerman meets with the people who have devoted their lives to solving that very problem. Did you know there are people who volunteer to get colds?? People sign up for studies in which they're given germs and then studied. Sometimes the researchers give the subjects drugs to test. Other times, the subjects are studied for the symptoms they present with, the ways in which they spread germs, or the duration of their illnesses. In return for their suffering, they're given financial compensation. I really hope I never need money that badly!
Ackerman also tells us how to avoid, and how to treat, the common cold. To stay healthy, don't touch your nose and eyes. While many germs can be passed by oral contact- which is why it's never a good idea to share drinks- colds are most commonly transmitted via the nasal and ocular passages. If you can avoid touching these areas, you greatly enhance your ability to fight off colds. If you're like me, however, and wear contacts, well, good luck not touching your eyes...
Ackerman's research on treating the symptoms of colds was, in my opinion, both disappointing and useful. She tells us that all those hundreds of cold remedies available at CVS really are worthless. You'll be just as healthy without Airborne as you would be with it. Zicam can't lessen the duration of your cold.
Advil Cold and Sinus does nothing but pile a bunch of drugs you don't need in a pill with two you do.
To treat a cold, researchers all offer the same advice:
1- Sudafed or another first generation anti-histamine. These help dry you out. The newer stuff doesn't work. Claritins and Zyrtecs may help with allergies, but they won't help your cold symptoms.
2- Ibuprophen. The sinus pain associated with colds can be much alleviated with proper pain medications.
3- Sleep. You're much better off taking a day off work and sleeping off your cold than trying to power through. (Wish I'd followed my own advice here. I went to work with both my colds and, boy, was it tough going...)
4- Chicken soup. Yes, it's true, grandma's old adage really does help. The liquids in the soup help prevent dehydration and the nutrients from the veggies are good for your body. And, let's face it, who doesn't feel better with a little chicken soup??
Here's wishing you all a healthy 2011 and beyond!