2014: Common cold requires common sense

With the start of school and changing weather, this time of year can also bring on the common cold. Test your knowledge of preventative measures and treatments for colds. Naturopathic physician Cheryl Kasdorf, ND prepared this quiz. Kasdorf can be contacted at (928) 649-9234. For more information, visit www.drcherylkasdorf.com.

Select one or more of the options offered for these questions.

1. Starve a cold, feed a fever? Or feed a cold, starve a fever?

a. Feed a cold, starve a fever: olden day wisdom so you don't waste food on someone with a bad fever who is going to die anyway.

b. Feed a cold, starve a fever - this is a mnemonic using the "d" and "v" in the corresponding words.

c. Starving is never the correct answer.

d. Starve a cold lest you feed a fever.

e. "Starve a cold and feed a fever" referrers to medication, not food. There is no medication to cure the common cold. Medications only suppress the cold, so let it run its course. For a fever, medication should be taken to decrease your body temperature.

The answer is: These all have a grain of truth.

We can laugh at the wisdom of "a," since it is not true these days. Recently, scientists at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam have found that eating a meal boosts the type of immune response that destroys the viruses responsible for colds, while fasting stimulates the response that tackles the bacterial infections responsible for most fevers, "b."

If you have a fever, you have more than a cold. People who have a fever typically totally lose their appetite. This is the result of chemicals released by your body to fight off infection also make you feel irritable, lethargic, or just plain miserable. Digestion takes energy, but more importantly, your digestive enzymes work less efficiently above 99.5 degrees F, which creates a toxic burden of undigested foods. Avoiding eating while there is no appetite, instead drink fluids, "c."

A cold is your body's way detoxifying, so it is helpful to eat lightly at any sign of being unwell, resting the digestive system. Drinking fluids help thin mucus for easier removal, helping alleviate cough and nasal drainage. The best thing to do is to drink plenty of fluids - so starving is not exactly correct, "c."

If you eat too much and the kind of foods that bring down the immune system, you may have given yourself a cold. Therefore to starve a cold means do not overeat nor eat the offending foods such as sugars, starches and dairy, and you will avoid getting worse, which could mean a fever, "d."

The only true part of "e" is that there is no medication to cure the common cold. Fever is our system amping up to fight infection and clean out waste products, so let it do its job even if it is uncomfortable.

2. Avoiding which of the following will MOST help prevent catching a cold?

a. Kissing someone with a cold.

b. Drinking from the same glass as someone with a cold.

c. Shaking hands with someone with a cold.

d. Being around someone who is coughing and sneezing.

The answer is: C. While the chances of getting a cold are directly related to the amount of time spent around someone else with a cold, the easiest route of infection of the virus that causes a cold is through touch. All of the above are factors, but hand contact is an overlooked and most important route. This is especially true if afterwards you touch your nose and eyes and don't wash your hands. Use plain soap and water for regular hand washing, as antimicrobial soaps have been shown in studies to not be more effective, and in fact may breed antibiotic-resistant microbes.

3. Which of the following increase susceptibility to infection by cold viruses?

a. Sugary holiday eats and dairy treats.

b. Spending more time in heated buildings.

c. Holiday entertaining, shopping, seeing family, and overall hectic activities.

d. Staying up late to finish things or partying resulting in insufficient rest.

The answer is: All of the above put a strain on the immune system, increasing susceptibility to pathogens. Sugar immediately suppresses immune activity, and the holiday eggnog, cheeses, and dairy treats increase sticky mucus production in the respiratory tract, inviting microbes to stay there and multiply. Dry heated indoor air can dry out the nose, mouth, and respiratory tract mucous membranes, the natural protective barrier, and allow virus proliferation. Stress and disrupted exercise and rest routines may increase susceptibility.

4. Which of the following is likely to increase the immune system?

a. Lots of Orange Juice

b. Zinc & Vitamin C

c. Lots of fresh garlic eaten daily

d. Essential Fatty Acids, as are in flax, pumpkin, sunflower & sesame seeds and fish oils

e. Attitude of "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

The answer is: All of the above, except for "a" will boost immunity. Orange juice, besides having Vitamin C, has a lot of simple sugars, which outweighs the effects of C and depresses the immune system. Zinc at 20 mg a day has been shown to boost thymus gland activity, which is related to immunity. Vitamin C boosts the immune system, but if taken at too high levels may cause diarrhea unless buffered with minerals. Garlic is a natural antibiotic, and essential fatty acids help build the components of the immune system. Finally, a happy attitude can cancel the effects of stressful events and, as shown by studies, directly stimulate the immune system.

5. Which of the following are hallmark signs of a cold?

a. Runny or stuffy nose

b. Sneezing

c. Sore throat

d. Cough

e. Headache and fever

The answer is: All of the above. Only sometimes is "e," a headache and fever, present. Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing can also be signs of allergies. However, along with the other symptoms, especially if you are run down and need a rest, runny nose and sneezing signal that you should treat yourself as having a cold.

6. If you do catch a cold, which practices are beneficial?

a. Drinking lots of fluids, but not soda pop, juice, coffee, or milk.

b. Eating spicy chicken soup

c. Slow down, take a hot bath, then go to bed

d. Redouble the practices to increase the immune system

e. Taking something like Tylenol to reduce a fever

The answer is: All of the above, except for "e," reducing the low fever of a cold virus, is beneficial. If there is a high fever, it is not just a cold. The fever will help to stimulate the immune system as well as outright kill the viruses. A hot bath can raise the body temperature, like a fever with its beneficial effects, and rest time in bed allows the body to do its job of recovery. Drinking lots of water with lemon or herbs will thin out the secretions and help the stuffy nose, as well as flush the body. Juices and pop have simple sugars that depress the immune system; coffee is counterproductive to rest; milk thickens mucus. Homemade chicken soup is rich is cysteine which aids in thinning mucus to get it out more easily. Including spices like cayenne in the soup will trigger a release of fluids in the mouth and throat to help flush things out. Zinc lozenges, slowly dissolved in the mouth, have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms. Vitamin C can be taken at 500 to 2,000 mg every one to two hours while symptoms are severe. The other suggestions for strengthening immunity also help, especially the attitude, because the cold was just a way of slowing you down to a more human pace.

7. What symptoms signal that it is more than a cold, and the need for more intensive medical care?

a. Fever exceeding 102 degrees F.

b. The development of ear pain.

c. Pain around the eyes, especially with green nasal discharge.

d. A persistent uncontrollable cough or shortness of breath.

e. Persistently coughing up green or yellow mucus.

The answer is: All of the above. These are symptoms of possible bacterial infections, whereas viruses cause cold symptoms. Ear, sinus and lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia need more care than a simple cold, and possibly a visit to your physician. At any rate, the measures mentioned previously will build immunity and are a first step.

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