Complete home instructions for the common cold should include how to prevent the spread of the virus to other family members, how to shorten the duration of symptoms, foods and other products that relieve symptoms and how to strengthen the immune system, so that you and your family will have fewer colds next year.
The stages of the common cold vary. Some people experience no symptoms at all, while some experience a full range of frustrating ailments; from fever to body aches to coughing, sneezing and runny nose. Unlike influenza, which typically begins with a relatively high fever, most adults do not experience any fever at all. In children and infants, temperature can climb to 102 degrees farenheit.
A large number of different viruses can cause the common cold, but scientists know the most about the rhinovirus. It is a very common virus and can be grown easily in a laboratory setting. Research indicates that the beginning stages of the common cold usually occur two or three days after exposure to the rhinovirus. The most active viruses are present in nasal secretions during the first four days of infection. Thus, the first step in home instructions for the common cold is to try to keep those who have begun to show symptoms away from those who are not infected, at least for the first few days.
Parents who are caring for a sick child should wash their hands well and often, particularly before touching their own face or another family member. Disinfectants may help to remove the virus from surfaces, but it is believed that the rubbing action is what removes viruses. Anti-bacterial hand soaps and cleaners have no effect on viruses, but the hand washing action rubs them off. The rhinovirus has been shown to be active for as long as three hours on skin and surfaces.
The next step in our home instructions for the common cold covers shortening the duration of symptoms. Most research about common cold treatment is geared towards shortening symptoms, since curing the infection is not possible. First, let's look at what does not work. Regardless of what stages of the common cold a person is currently suffering from, an antibiotic is not effective. Antibiotics neither kill viruses, nor shorten the duration of viral infections. They are only effective against bacterial infections. If symptoms last for more than two weeks, a bacterial infection may be present and a visit to the doctor is appropriate. There is no indication that inhaling steam is an effective treatment. Steam may temporarily relieve congestion, but will not shorten duration of symptoms.
While cold weather does not cause the common cold (as mentioned, it is caused by a virus), staying comfortably warm and dry will make you feel better. Getting out in rainy, wet or cold conditions often cause symptoms to worsen temporarily. When stages of the common cold experienced include fever, chills are often present. There is no reason to avoid bundling up when chills are present, but there is no indication that "sweating it out" is an effective treatment. Sweating may actually increase dehydration and experts agree that staying well-hydrated is particular important during a cold.
When asked about home instructions for the common cold, most doctors will recommend that you get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and take acetaminophen for headache, body aches and fever. Parents should not give children aspirin or aspirin containing products, as it has been associated with Reye's Syndrome, a rare, but life threatening illness that sometimes follows chicken pox, influenza and other viral infections. Some doctors may recommend zinc tablets to shorten the duration of symptoms, if used in the early stages of the common cold. There is a bit of controversy surrounding the use of zinc nasal gels or sprays. Some studies have shown that they shorten the duration of symptoms, while others conclude that they are not effective and should not be used, because they can cause permanent loss of the sense of smell. In order to have any positive effect, they must be used in the early stages of the common cold, within in the first two days.
Taking supplements of vitamin C, E, A or zinc may be helpful home instructions. For the common cold treatment, some experts recommend them. It is always important to follow the manufacturers recommended dosage. High dosages of vitamin C can cause diarrhea; zinc can cause anemia; A can cause irritability and painful joints; E can have an anticoagulant effect. The better health supplements take all of this into consideration when creating products for use during viral infections or as a preventative of viral infections.
Sometimes over-the-counter multi-symptom cold relievers are included in home instructions for the common cold. If you choose to use these, it is important to read the directions and ingredients. Some products contain aspirin. Others contain alcohol. Some cause drowsiness and should not be used when driving or operating dangerous equipment. Studies have shown that many are ineffective on common cold symptoms and most should not be used by children.