Prevention and treatment
Treatment for the common cold is designed to relieve the symptoms rather than attack the cause. Common treatments include analgesics such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) as well as localised versions targeting the throat (often delivered in lozenge form), nasal decongestants (which work to reduce the inflammation in the nasal passages) and cough suppressants (which work like a narcotic to suppress the cough reflex of the brain). A warm and humid environment and drinking lots of fluids, especially hot liquids, alleviate symptoms somewhat. For most people, even without these remedies, colds are relatively minor inconveniences and they can go on with their daily activities with a little discomfort.
To prevent infection, frequent hand washing is helpful, especially if infected people are around. In some countries, people with the common cold wear surgical masks out of courtesy. Because of the large variety of viruses causing the common cold, vaccination is impractical.
Until the 1980s, by law, the common cold was not a reportable disease. Rarely causing death, but afflicting millions, the common cold costs companies untold billions due to time lost from work, and inefficiency on the job, as well as millions wasted on over-the-counter and home remedies.
As a cold usually lasts a few days, colds interfere with absenteeism from school, as well as business.
The sheer number of home remedies for the common cold serve best to demonstrate that few, if any of them are of any particular value. A cold from which the victim recovers in seven days if it is skillfully treated will clear up in a week without treatment. However, some of the most common include camomile tea, chicken soup, nebulized medicinal mixtures, hot compresses, mustard plasters, hot toddies, vitamin C, Echinacea, as well as various combinations of temperature and water.
In Britain, the Common Cold Unit (CCU) was set up by the civilian Medical Research Council (MRC) in 1946 on the site of a former military hospital, the Harvard Hospital, at Harnham Down near Salisbury in Wiltshire. The CCU continually recruited volunteers for research into the common cold until its closure in 1989. The CCU is sometimes confused with the military Microbiological Research Institute (MRI) at nearby Porton Down, with which it occasionally collaborated but was not officially connected.
- Cold Wars - The Fight Against the Common Cold, by David Tyrrell, former Director of CCU, and Michael Fielder, ISBN 019263285X
- Robitussin, a liquid common-cold relieving medicine.
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