Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Self treatment for a cold

We are not talking about flu here, but just your common cold which does not require a visit to your doctor as you don't want to occupy his valuable time when he has more serious patients to attend to. Neither do you need to get a prescription for anti-biotics as a cold is a virus and will not respond to anti-biotics. (The mis-use of antibiotics has been the main cause of the return of TB (tuberculosis and of MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), commonly known as the flesh eating disease.

Having said this, if you are elderly, have chronic respiratory problems or if you notice signs that your cold has lead to an infection in your chest, well then yes, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. The first sign of infection is a temperature and a feeling of heaviness in the chest alongside coughing up phlegm with a greenish colour.

But if you are a reasonably fit and healthy person you can quite easily cure your cold at home.

The first signs of the common cold are usually a sore throat on the first day, followed the next day or even that night by watery eyes, sneezing and runny or blocked nose.

Water and liquids is the first attack as you have to keep your body well hydrated. Chicken broths are particularly good as they give you protein, liquid and warmth all in one. Vitamin C taken in any form (for example, oranges) is another attack.

Over the counter cold medicines
If your throat remains sore, prepare yourself a lemon and honey drink or ask your local chemist for 'Lemsip'. These come in sachets and each sachet is equivalent to one drink. Lemsip usually contains some paracetamol as well which will help with any ill feeling that you probably have.
Here are a few more things that you will need from your chemist:

  • Optrex eye drops to cool down your irritated and watery eyes.
  • Paper handkerchiefs that can be thrown away immediately after use.
  • Lip balm as lips tend to dry and crack a lot during a cold.
  • Vaseline for when your nose gets sore and red from so much blowing.
  • Antihistamine tablets to deal with nose congestion (more about this below).
  • Eucalyptus oil to apply on your handkerchiefs or pillow to ease breathing.
  • Saline drops for decongesting.
  • Vicks Vapour Rub to use in vapour inhalations.
Rest and fight the virus
You must rest and keep in a constant temperature, neither too warm nor too cold. You need to rest in order to reserve all your energy for fighting back at the cold and you want to keep in a constant temperature so that you don't provoke more shivers or sweats.
Don't sit in the sun - the sun is usually good for us in short doses but not when you have a cold, and apart from anything else the heat will make your nasal membranes swell up more and consequently make you feel even more blocked.

If you smoke, try and stop or if not at least cut down.

This seems to be the most uncomfortable part of any cold, not so much when it is runny, but more when it starts to get blocked. It is firstly not recommended at all to resort to nasal decongestants as there is a risk of suffering from a rebound effect.

(I myself got addicted to them once, to the point that I couldn't get to sleep without using them. My nose was permanently feeling blocked whether I had a cold or not. This was due to the fact that the inner membrane of my nose was constantly swollen due to the irritation of the nose drops. It took me about six months to wean myself off them)

Probably the most effective and safest product to use, and even babies can use it, are saline drops. These come in the form of nose drop bottles but literally contain salt and water. When you pump up into each nostril a small amount of saline, sniffing upwards strongly, you will get the same fresh sensation as when you dive into the sea. Saline drops can be used as often as you like and have no side effects at all.

It is a good idea also to use an antihistamine medicine (in the form of tablets) which you can get without prescription from your chemist. This will help to keep your nose unblocked and also minimize the amount of mucus that it produces. This is important because the less mucus you have in your nose, the less mucus that can fall down into your chest.

At night, in a horizontal position it is also quite likely that your nose will feel even more blocked. In order to alleviate this problem just use an extra pillow, while your cold lasts, so that you sleep slightly inclined and this will help quite a bit.

Another idea is to put a few drop of eucalyptus oil on your pillow. The smell of this will help to clear your nasal passage.

Hopefully, treating your cold like this, it will last no more than three days. Although, there is one last thing that you have to make sure that you do and that is to clear your chest of any phlegm. Phlegm/mucus left in your chest/lungs acts like a stagnant pond collecting all sorts of bacteria, and this is where infections and complications could arise. The body's natural defence mechanisms will try and take care of this for you when it makes you cough, but you must make sure that when you cough, you cough the phlegm up and out and do not swallow it.

When you feel that you have phlegm to bring out, it's probably best to go to the privacy of your bathroom, bend over the wash basin and cough it up and out, making sure to wash the basin afterwards. If you have trouble coughing phlegm out you can try the following trick. Fill your wash basin with boiling hot water, drop a teaspoon of vicks vapour rub into the water, place a towel over your head and try and inhale the vapour for as long as you can. These vapours will help to liquefy the phlegm and make it easier to cough out.
Always remember to wash your hands frequently, as hands are the main way of passing your cold onto other people, or catching it from others if you hadn't got one already.

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