The scourge of the common cold

We may have gotten a late start to winter here in the midwest but it seems there are plenty of cold viruses for everyone. All those runny noses, the sniffing and sneezing, the coughing, it's enough to make anyone run for cover. But where can you go and be safe? Home? Think again, your kids will bring it home or the mailman has it. Let's face it, sometimes there's no escaping the bug, the creeping crud, the symptoms we've come to know as the common cold.

The December 2001 issue of The Ladies Home Journal offered some advice on the care and feeding of the common cold. The article entitled ''The cold facts'' was sandwiched between two full-page ads for another drug unrelated to colds. Why did this not surprise me as they began systematically bashing natural remedies that work so well for millions of Americans?

At the top of their listŠ vitamin C. They negated the work of the late Nobel prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling stating that his recommendations for vitamin C use were based mostly on theory. His 1971 four placebo controlled trials concluded that it was highly unlikely that the decrease of common cold symptoms in the vitamin C groups was caused by chance alone. My research also revealed a rather different story. The British Journal of Nutrition, The Journal of Clinical Epidemiology and The International Journal of Sports Medicine all reported positive similar study results.

Next on their list was the use of zinc lozenges. They didn't dispute the fact that colds were either averted or shortened by the use of zinc, they simply reported it from the glass half-empty theory stating that only half of those using zinc lozenges sped the recovery of their colds. Fifty percentŠ seems to me that's not bad.

They went on to report on a zinc nasal spray, produced by a drug company stating it might actually do some good without overdosing on zinc. Out of desperation during last year's cold season I tried it and wished I hadn't! The spray, preserved with glycerin, burned the already irritated mucous lining of my nose and it felt as though I might have sprayed my sore nose with cayenne pepper instead.

Next bashed, Echinacea, the single most studied herb in the west. In the past 50 years, echinacea has achieved worldwide fame for its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Boxed off in yellow at the end of the article ''Relief Ahead.'' Soon to be released is Pleconaril, a drug that inhibits the growth of rhinoviruses. No doubt the drug works, but at what cost financially and in serious physical side effects? Were you aware that there are more hospitalizations and deaths in this country from the appropriate use of prescribed drugs than any other cause -- including heart disease and cancer? Still want to take a drug for the common cold?

Most experts agree we will never be free from the common cold, but you can fight back.

1. Maintain good health with plenty of sleep, play, good food, good water and vitamin C during cold season.

2. The best use of zinc is in lozenge form. Zinc has the ability to keep viruses from replicating which is what makes you sick. Suck on some as soon as you think you have been exposed or if someone around you has a cold. Avoid lozenges that are preserved with phenols. 3. Herbs such as echinacea, astragalus, cayenne, and garlic all have been proven to be antiviral and help shorten the duration and reduce cold symptoms.

4. Yes, Mom's chicken soup does help. It has mucolytic properties that soothe and relieve irritated mucous membranes.

5. Be kind to your fellow worker, neighbor, and friend and do your best to contain those infectious viruses with proper hand washing and disposal of contaminated material. Yes I mean all those snotty tissues!

Till next time, Rebecca

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online January 1, 2002

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