The common cold is the most frequent disease
humans suffer from, and most people get a
cold at least once or twice a year.
A cold is a viral infection of the upper
respiratory tract and is characterised by fever,
coughing and sneezing, sore throat and a
runny nose. (Fever in colds is usually below
37.8°C.) There are many virus strains that can
cause colds, the most common of which are
A cold, or any other disease for that matter,
can be dealt with in three ways:
1. “An ounce of prevention is better than a
pound of cure.” This means that the best way
to deal with a cold is not to get one in the
2. If, however, you’re unfortunate enough to
get a cold, the best way to deal with the
situation is to eliminate the cause of the
disease, or, in other words, cure it.
3. And if the disease can’t be cured, the only
option you’re left with is to treat the
symptoms and make yourself as comfortable
Keep your immune system strong
A good way to avoid getting a cold is to stay
away from cold viruses. This is achieved by
avoiding contact with anyone who might be
contagious. It is also good to wash your
hands regularly, especially after spending time
in public areas.
Read: The dangers of not washing your hands
The best way to stay healthy, though, is to
make sure your immune system is strong
enough to ward off those cold viruses.
According to Harvard Medical School the
following general good-health guidelines is
the single best step you can take toward
keeping your immune system strong and
– Don’t smoke.
– Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and
whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
– Exercise regularly.
– Maintain a healthy weight.
– Control your blood pressure.
– Drink alcohol only in moderation.
– Get enough sleep.
– Take steps to avoid infection.
– Get regular medical screening tests.
Can one cure a cold?
Many people believe that antibiotics can cure
a cold. This is wrong, because colds are
caused by viruses, not bacteria, so antibiotics
will have no effect. A study published in the
Journal of Clinical Microbiology on 200 young
adults with common colds showed that
“bacterial infections were rare, supporting the
concept that the common cold is almost
exclusively a viral disease”.
Furthermore, taking antibiotics when you don’t
need them can also lead to “ antibiotic
What about a ‘cold shot’?
By creating immunity against a particular
disease, vaccination prevents us from getting
that disease. It is therefore more of a
preventive measure than a cure.
Millions of people take their yearly flu shot,
but cold vaccinations have proven not to be a
feasible option and a Cochrane review “has
found a lack of evidence on the effects of
vaccines for the common cold in healthy
According to Thomas, Smith, PhD, from the
University of Texas, there are over 100
serotypes of rhinovirus virus, “making it
unlikely that there will ever be a traditional
vaccine for the common cold using
conventional vaccine methods”.
Also, having a cold may be a nuisance, but it
is not a serious or life-threatening disease,
which is why it is not high on the list of
diseases that have to be cured.
Currently the best bet for an anti-cold
medicine may be something called broad-
spectrum antivirals, which would target a
number of different viruses. This research is
however in its infancy. In 2011 Draper
Laboratory in Cambridge developed a
compound called Draco , which “is designed to
treat or prevent infections by a broad
spectrum of viruses, just as existing
antibiotics can treat or prevent infections by a
broad spectrum of bacteria.”
Treating a cold
There is a long list of home remedies that may
or may not make you feel better. Here are a
– Herbs like echinacea, goldenseal and
– Ginger, honey and garlic
– Chicken soup
– Gargling with salt water to ease a sore
– “Vapor rub” to open up air passages
– Taking a warm bath
Zinc and vitamin C
There are studies that confirm that zinc
gluconate lozenges are effective for treating
the common cold. One randomized, double-
blind, placebo-controlled study found that
“zinc gluconate in the form and dosage
studied significantly reduced the duration of
symptoms of the common cold”.
Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, was almost
single-handedly responsible for the belief that
vitamin C could significantly decrease the
incidence of the common cold. This gave rise
to the controversial belief that large doses of
vitamin C could reduce the risk of catching a
cold as well as reduce its severity and
From a medical point of view, it is therefore
safe to say that there is no cure for the
common cold , and apart from not getting a
cold in the first place, once we’ve got it,
there’s currently no getting rid of it. The only
option that remains is to wait for the illness
to run its course and to treat the symptoms
as effectively as possible.