How much do we really know about catching and recovering from the common cold?
Research states it takes about 48 hours for the cold virus to cause a runny nose, scratchy throat and other colds symptoms. Think back to where you were two days ago and you’ll probably figure out where your cold came from.
Is it a cold or the flu? To quote Dr. Ron Eccles director of the Cold Centre at Cardiff University in the U.K., “Cold viruses do not usually cause fever in adults. Sudden onset, fever and cough are the best predictors of influenza.” But, sometimes even the experts are tricked by the cold virus.
Sweat may be your best ally where defeating a cold is concerned. Appalachian State University researchers did a study on how exercise affects the immune system and invading viruses. Their conclusion: any exercise, however limited, is highly beneficial. Their research indicates if you really want to ward off colds and the flu this winter, work out at least 5 days per week. A brisk 30-minute walk five times per week can cold-proof your immune system. “Mild exercise is good as it moves the blood around the body and also moves the immune white cells around to search for infection,” according to Dr. Eccles.
If you get fewer than seven hours sleep per night you’re three times more likely to catch a cold, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in an Archives of Internal Medicine article. In the article, researchers refer to “sleep efficiency.” Study participants who spent less than 92 percent of their time in bed asleep were at least five times more likely to catch a cold than those who fell asleep quicker and stayed asleep longer.
A compilation of more than 30 studies conducted on people who do normal everyday activities, researchers at Australian National University and the University of Helsinki concluded that vitamin C does nothing to prevent or reduce cold symptoms. But, if you’re under a lot of stress, doing heavy athletics or a lot of other physical exertion, a daily dose of 200mg of vitamin C may help reduce your chances of catching a cold by about half. Foods high in natural vitamin C are: oranges and citrus, papaya, broccoli, tomatoes, red peppers and kiwi.
Do herbal remedies help fight cold viruses? Echinacea, (aka purple cone flower) is believed to help boost the immune system. Researchers at the University of Connecticut studied more than 1,600 people and concluded echinacea lowered the chances of catching a cold by 50% and reduced the duration of their colds by about one and a half days.
Can a cold make you fat? According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, CA found kids who had been infected by the common cold virus adenovirus 36 were, on average, 50 pounds heavier than children who hadn’t been infected by the strain. The question here is: what came first, poor food choices, excess weight gain and a lowered immune response or the virus.
According to a study published in the journal Rhinology, researchers in England found that simply sipping a hot beverage can provide immediate and sustained relief from coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue and other cold symptoms. A good herbal tea, echinacea for instance, and maybe a teaspoon of honey, which has been shown to have antiviral properties, may take the edge off your cold.
According to estimates by their 75th birthday, the average person has had 200 colds or about two years of coughing, sneezing, and sore throats. Children typically get four to eight colds per year. Older people who have been exposed to the majority of cold viruses and built up immunity, suffer far fewer colds per year. A new virus that hasn’t had immunity built up, can manifest into upper respiratory illness and be life threatening to the elderly.
Most people think a mere handshake with a sick person can cause a cold. Not true if your immune system is strong. Researchers at Cardiff University Common Cold Centre placed healthy people in a room with cold sufferers and came to the conclusion that it was “remarkably difficult” to spread the cold virus from one person to another. “The cold virus has to have the ideal conditions to infect you. Colds are not very contagious, and most colds are caught at home from kids and partners from prolonged and close contact,” says Dr. Eccles. In other words, exercise, eat right, use common sense and keep your immune system in top shape.