Perhaps it is hard to believe that an analysis of the common cold could fill an entire book, but if you are fascinated by the world’s most frequent malady you might want to consider reading Ah-Choo: The Uncommon Life Of Your Common Cold, by Jennifer Ackerman. While I did not invest in the book, I was interested to hear Ackerman discuss some of the common misconceptions about colds on an interview on NPR.
A few interesting points:
- Catching a cold has nothing to do with getting a chill or a being cold. It is a virus passed from person to person, and there is no indication a lowered body temperature leads to a cold.
- Most of the most common treatments for colds don’t work, including Airborne, zinc tablets, echinacea, and large doses of vitamin C.
- Don’t take “multi-symptom” over-the-counter cold treatments. They ingredients tend to battle each other and don’t really work.
So what does work? Most of her advice is fairly intuitive.
- Keeping you immune system in top shape is very helpful, so getting eight hours of sleep, keeping stress in check, and living a generally healthy lifestyle will lower your odds of getting sick.
- Wash your hands and don’t touch your face. You will most likely touch something that is infected, and then touch your face. She gave the statistics on how often people touch their face and pick their noses, and it was a bit disturbing.
- Take two separate over the counter treatments. For most people ibuprofen helps fight the symptoms by lowering the inflammation that accompanies a cold, and Benadryl is effective at cutting down on nasal problems, which can also spread infection throughout your body.
Perhaps it is not suprising to learn that hotel rooms are a major breeding ground for colds, and smart travellers would be well-advised to disinfect everything they touch, including the phone, the television remote, the door knobs, and depending on your travel habits, visitors that may come to your room.