Managing general cold symptoms

Have you felt sniffly and under the weather with general cold symptoms recently?

The Center for Disease Control points out that there are millions of cases of the common cold each year, but there’s no cure, and antibiotics don’t work against viruses. Most people recover in 7 – 10 days, “however, people with weakened immune systems, asthma or respiratory conditions may develop serious illness, such as bronchitis or pneumonia,” the CDC warns.

Okay, your cold systems (probably) aren’t a major illness. It’s what we call “The Pesky’s,” those symptoms of general malaise that linger. Pesky’s are the health and well-being issues everyone faces at some point. They’re bothersome, but not severe medical conditions: like general cold symptoms. Yes, the ones you have right now.

Most of us aren’t sure what to do about the pesky’s. Maybe we’ll visit a pharmacy and research the issue online instead of seeing a doctor. Perhaps purchase whatever we’ve seen advertisements for (rather than making a well-informed decision) in a vain attempt to find a solution through trial and error. Let’s face it, we feel kind of lost when navigating these pesky’s. So stop, think, and take action. Ready?

Let’s get help. 

Find ways to get ahead of the problem even if it’s just to address the symptoms and feel better while the cold runs its course.

You have a few choices. Does your insurance cover telemedicine (where you talk to a remote health provider over the phone)? Does your primary healthcare provider have an office nearby? Or do you live near a drugstore that has an in-house pharmacist?

The latter? Okay.

Bundle up warm, grab your phone (or a piece of paper if you prefer) and record your symptoms. Runny nose? Fever? Cough (phlegm filled? Or dry/hacking – like your lungs are decomposing inside your chest?) Aches (where?) Pain? (location, please).

The reason for writing all this down before you leave the house is that once inside the drug store (or wherever you’re heading), you’ll be so overwhelmed by the bright lights, people, bad music (Christmas already?) and other distractions, you’ll mumble something ineffectual. Or ignore the long line, slink away, grab something totally unsuitable for your symptoms from the nearest aisle and struggle home.

The pharmacist can help you if they know your specific ailments. But if you’re just too exhausted to explain what’s wrong, you’ll probably underplay it. With a list of symptoms, you can slide over the piece of paper (or hold up your phone) and they’ll take it from there. That’s their job. Let them do it. You need to get better.

Where do colds come from?

That’s a good question. According to the CDC: “Many different respiratory viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common. Rhinoviruses can also trigger asthma attacks and have been linked to sinus and ear infections. Other viruses that can cause colds include respiratory syncytial virus, human parainfluenza viruses, adenovirus, human coronaviruses, and human metapneumovirus.”

Isn’t the flu caused by a virus too?

Yes, it is, but a different type of virus (one of several influenza viruses, in fact). Often the symptoms can be similar, but become more extreme, which is why it’s good to ask for a professional clinical opinion (and get that annual flu jab).

Dealing with the pesky’s

Even if you don’t think your common cold symptoms are serious, they will impact others around you, and generally weaken your own immune system if left unchecked. Learning to take care of yourself is important. If you’re a parent, you’ll be modeling good behavior for the next generation.

Now don’t forget to wash your hands often (hot water and soap kills many nasty viruses), drink plenty of liquids (herbal tea or hot water with ginger and lemon is even better), and get an early night. Feel better soon.