( Originally Published 1936 )
WHAT ARE "COLDS"?
FROM time immemorial, we have been advised to bundle up and keep dry and warm, so as to avoid catching cold. The very word "cold suggests that exposure has something to do with it. If this is true it is important because it shows us a way of prevention. There is something to keeping the feet dry, and keeping out of draughts.
Undoubtedly, however, there is an infection element in colds. In fact, most physicians would be inclined to the view that all colds are due to infection. The evidence for this is the almost universal experience of developing a cold after close association with someone else who has a cold. Also the tendency for colds to attack progressively many members in one family.
Experiments have been done by which colds have been produced by spraying the filtered secretions from cases of colds on the nasal membranes of volunteers. It has been shown that in 500 infants with colds, compared to 500 without colds, twice as many mothers in the first group had colds as in the second.
The common sense conclusion would probably be that colds are due, first, to exposure which weakens the individual so that infection can gain entrance. The difficulty with proving the infection theory has been to find the germ, which as yet has eluded all efforts. So many different germs have been found by different investigators, that one of them has concluded that the common cold may be caused by any one of many different bacteria, and that the symptoms which we call "a cold" are simply due to the nonspecific reaction of the membrane of the nose to any infection.
In the practical field of treatment, the studies of the past few years have taught us at least some things not to do. The belief is wide-spread that an acid condition occurs in the body during the colds. All the careful studies on the subject have shown, on the contrary, that the blood and tissues are inclined to be more alkaline than usual. This would indicate that the use of soda and fruit juices in large quantities have not the beneficial actions that have been ascribed to them.
The best treatment, of course, is rest in bed for the first two or three days of a cold. If people would only try it and would find out how many of the disagreeable after-effects may be avoided, and how much the long period of running nose and coughing may be shortened, they would do it more often. Associated with this should be the ingestion of plenty of fluids and a cathartic, because the bowels are always sluggish in the presence of infection. Such drugs as aspirin, phenacetin and quinine in small quantities, accompanied by plenty of hot water, are the best remedies we know at present.
COLDS BLESSING OR REVERSE ACCORDING TO PSYCHOLOGY
Along in the early winter many people get excited and want to know something definite about the common cold. They are worried about treating it, and worried about doing something drastic at once.
This is all very well, and if there were some definite and scientifically approved method of handling the common cold, we might pay some attention to the worry. As it is, it is largely unwarranted and fruitless hysteria.
The only good treatment of colds is psychological.
In the first place, colds are not nearly so bad as they are painted. As a matter of fact, a cold is kind of a good thing. If you just change your point of view around and regard it this way, you will find out you don't need to worry nearly as much as you have been doing. A cold keeps you at home for a few days. Yes—granted. But the rest does you good, and it's sort of fun to potter around the house. You are freed from any obligations. Nobody expects you to go to work or to make any important decisions. It's rather like being in heaven for a while. As far as the drain on the business is concerned, it probably does the business good to have you away from it for a few days.
In spite of all the long faces that are pulled by various people, I do not believe that a common cold ever results in any serious illness. I have read all the reports on the subject and they all read like poppy-cock to me. They give the impression that two young fellows had started out to do research and found they did not have anything to research on, so they pulled long faces and tried to make what they had been working on look as if it were important.
A cold is really a pretty good thing for you. It is more of a friend than an enemy. You get over the worst of it in about two days, and for the rest of the time you can enjoy yourself making everybody get up and give you the best seat; and blowing your nose loudly so as to annoy the remainder of the family; being finicky about your food, and shaking your head very solemnly and saying you are afraid that your cold is running into something, and seeing the expressions of alarm on their faces.
If medical science were to get rid of the common cold, a great deal of happiness probably would disappear with it.
REST IN BED COMMENDED FOR COLD THAT HANGS ON
A wise old practitioner of my acquaintance used to say that he had discovered a disease which he called by his own name. Its features were that the patient took cold, got over the acute stage, and then dragged around for weeks or months doing a little coughing, feeling languid and indisposed, with lack of appetite and general listlessness. The doctor used to say that there was no use trying to cure it except by going south into a warm climate. This suited the patients who could afford it, but did not leave much for the fellow who had to stick on the job.
Whether this is a particular disease or not, there is no question that some colds do hang on for a long time. They can often be spotted in their first stages because the patient wheezes so much and has such a feeling of constriction and tightness in the chest. Possibly the reason that they stay for such lengthy periods is that a spot of infection is left, either in a sinus of the nose or in the tonsils, or even in some inaccessible part of the bronchial tubes or lungs or the lymph nodes of the chest.
Besides the feeling of lassitude and the annoying hawking and spitting and coughing, and hot and cold flashes, the patient is very liable to be discouraged and actually to develop a mild form of melancholy.
In treatment I don't believe that it is absolutley necessary for the patient to go south, although admittedly this is a good thing if circumstances permit. Probably the most sensible thing to do is to go to bed for two or three days. Diet has little to do in clearing it up, although a light diet of fruit juices and milk probably is helpful.
Besides the rest in bed, the next most important thing is to be sure that there are no spots of infection in the nose or throat that can be removed or drained. If not, in my experience, the use of a vaccine either made from the patient's own secretions or a non-specific vaccine given in good amounts, two or three doses a few days apart, usually completely clears up the troublesome symptoms.
FRUIT, FLUID DIET HELPFUL FOR SUFFERERS FROM COLDS
Some evidence has been accumulated to show that catching cold is precipitated by an acid condition of the body. Such eminent investigators as Dr. Smiley, of Cornell, subscribe to this belief. To overcome this they believe in using alkalis, and especially an alkaline diet.
The old saying that you should "Feed a cold and starve a fever" has caused a great many people with a cold to be stuffed with substances which, it may be, prolong the cold rather than stop it.
The diet usually recommended is one in which fruits, vegetables and fluids predominate. Vitamin A, which is found in cod liver oil, prunes, spinach, carrots and other foodstuffs, is also supposed to operate in the prevention of colds.
As far as aborting a cold by other methods is concerned, an honest examination of the facts would show that there is very little possibility of it. There is an old saying that "a carefully treated cold lasts two weeks, while one that is not treated at all lasts fourteen days." And there is a great deal of truth in that.
Local applications to the nose and throat, according to most specialists in this line, do more harm than good, because they break down the defensive powers of the mucous membrane of the nose.
About the best thing that you can do for the patient is to try to make him comfortable. One way to do this is to keep him in bed, warm, with plenty of fluids. As nearly everyone knows, a useful drug is aspirin.
Inhalations, when secretions are troublesome, are always grateful. These can be made by putting a teaspoon of compound tincture of benzoin on a basin of steaming water, or burning eucalyptus cones.
Counter-irritants are also valuable. These range from a mustard plaster on the chest, to rubbing the chest with various sorts of aromatic oils or greases.
One of the most annoying things about a cold in its middle stage is the irritation of the throat, with the consequent coughing which produces no result. The best way to combat this is by the use of lozenges. The most important ingredient of lozenges is the sugar, and, therefore, a cheap, easy and pleasant way, is the use of a little stick candy.
TEN COMMANDMENTS GIVEN FOR SUFFERERS FROM SINUS
A recent writer in a journal devoted to diseases of the nose and throat, gives the following commandments for sinus sufferers:
1. Do not wet your hair on leaving your home in the morning, particularly in cold weather.
2. Do not swim or dive.
3. Do not get wet feet.
4. Do not smoke or "drink" during acute attacks.
5. Do not go without a hat except in the mid-summer months, and not even then too long in the very hot sun.
6. Do not stay in a draught while either asleep or awake.
7. Do not overindulge in food.
8. Do not take cold shower baths in the morning, particularly in cold weather, unless donning a rubber cap. If you must do so, do not leave the house before your body is warm. Better still, bathe before retiring.
9. Do not wear summer underwear in the late fall, winter or early spring.
10. Do not neglect your general health.