The usual symptoms of a cold include feeling hot and feverish with chills, aches and pains in muscles and joints, and a general feeling of being unwell.

Complications include a cough, earache, headaches, and pain over the cheeks indicating sinusitis. Sore throats and chest pains indicate the germ is spreading, and medical attention may be needed.

Here are some simple home remedies for treating the infections.

BED

It will take about seven days to overcome the flu, and bed for a few days is the best starting point. Keeping away from workmates at least prevents you from spreading the virus to others. One person can infect an entire office block within a few days. The rest gives the body a good chance of building up its own defense. This is good therapy, and in itself is often curative.

DIET

No food for a day or two won’t harm you, and often during illness, the desire to eat is reduced. Soft, easily digestible foods such as soup or broth, jellies, stewed fruit, mashed vegetables are best. Go quietly on fried and fatty foods, meat, and stews for a few days.

FLUIDS

These are essential as the body will eliminate an enormous amount of fluid, mainly in the form of perspiration which rapidly evaporates from the skin surface.

Ordinary water-based drinks are best and fruit juices are excellent. Add some powdered glucose D, for this equals food in a digestible form, and gives the fluid a sweetish flavor. It provides instant energy too.

Tomato juice and blackcurrant juice are high in vitamin C and maybe of some protective value, although many doctors doubt this.

If feeling hot and sweaty, chilled drinks, or even sucking pieces of ice can be refreshing.

BATHING

As the sweat dries on the skin, it leaves a superficial layer of salt which becomes uncomfortable and feels dirty. A quick sponge or lukewarm shower or bath gets rid of this.

If having a bath or shower, have an attendant nearby, for weakness can easily cause fainting. Sitting on a stool when showering is a good idea if feeling a bit unsteady. Even the hardiest person can rapidly feel this way when the virus strikes.

Dab the body dry with a soft towel. Do not rub hard for the skin can feel sensitive and tingly.

PAIN AND TEMPERATURE

The aches and pains and high temperature can often be reduced quickly by the use of simple analgesic-antipyretic type tablets.

The most widely used ones are aspirin and paracetamol. Adults can take two aspirin tablets three to four times a day. preferably after food. These are stomach irritants and can produce nausea if taken on an empty stomach. Children aged six to 12 years should take half this dose. Children under five years are better off with paracetamol elixir.

With paracetamol tablets, the adult dose is two 500mg tablets three or four times a day. For children aged six to 12 years, the dose is one tablet. As with aspirin, the best time for this medication is after food.

Aspirin often makes the body perspire profusely a short time later.

It is wise to change into dry clothing for the risks of a fresh “chill” are quite high. This means the body suddenly cools off allowing germs to get an even better foothold in the system and reduces the system’s fighting ability.

COUGH

If a cough is keeping you awake, a simple elixir is worthwhile. There are many suitable forms. Pholcodine elixirs are usually relatively successful. Many commercial brands exist and can be bought without a prescription. The dose is usually on the label. Old-fashioned cough remedies probably suit some, particularly older patients.

Persistent coughing in children can often be relieved by filling the room with steam (for instance, using a fry-pan with water in it), or putting the child in a steam-filled bathroom for a while during bad coughing bouts. It is worth washing the face with a cool flannel after such episodes to prevent chills.

BLOCKED NOSTRILS

Often the nasal passages become clogged, and there may be a discharge. Clean the nose regularly, using disposable paper tissues (and preferably burn these as they are highly infectious).

Instilling a few drops of a vasoconstrictor type nasal product will shrink the swollen lining and allow freer breathing, but this must not be overdone, otherwise a “rebound vasodilatation” may ensue, making the problem even worse. Often, inhaling steam gives very good results, and is quite harmless.

SORE EARS

This often indicates the infection has spread to the ears and means the doctor is necessary – and promptly.

SORE THROAT

Often a sore throat occurs as the viral infection spreads. Gargling often (each hour for a day or two) with hot salty water can eliminate or reduce the discomfort. With analgesics, this can usually be overcome.

ANTIBIOTICS

Do not take antibiotics unless the doctor has prescribed them for you. They will not kill viruses, the usual cause of respiratory tract infections, and must be reserved for complications that are known to respond to them.

The doctor will give you a fresh prescription if he feels this is necessary, and you then take the entire course, not half of it.

COMPLICATIONS

A common complication is sore cheeks. This means the sinuses (antrums) may have become infected.

Painful ears result from an infection of the middle ear (called otitis media).

Headaches may mean there is a simple head reaction or a viral infection in the brain. The latter is not very common but has become more frequent in recent years.

Pains in the chest may indicate pleurisy, or a more severe bronchitis, or even pneumonia.

All these need prompt medical attention from the doctor, to establish a diagnosis, and to get suitable treatment. In these cases, treatment with antibiotics and other forms of medication are often advisable.

Never neglect a common cold, for it can result in serious complications.


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