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Common Ailments

Common Cold

What is it?
The common cold is an upper respiratory infection caused by any one of over 300 viruses.

How do you catch it?
Cold viruses enter the body through contact with fluid from the eyes, nose, or throat of an infected person. Confinement in a small space with many people promotes cold transmission.

What are the symptoms?

- Generally feeling "blah" or weak
- Runny or stuffy nose or sneezing
- Headache
- Head congestion
- Fever
- Cough (may linger 1-2 weeks after first symptoms appear)

What can you do?
Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Colds must run their course; there is nothing you can do to stop them. You can, however, take measures to feel better:

- REST to relieve weakness and muscular aches. Avoid becoming fatigued and take 1-2 days off from classes/work if needed.
- DRINK FLUIDS to keep secretions thin and fevers down. Aim for 8-10 glasses per day. If you do not feel like eating, emphasize high-calorie drinks (such as soda or juice).
- DON'T SMOKE. It irritates the mucus lining of the nose and throat and can worsen symptoms.
- INCREASE HUMIDITY to reduce nasal stuffiness. If you do not have a humidifier or vaporizer, try sitting in a steamy bathroom with a hot running shower for 15 minutes.
- PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE to prevent spreading your cold. Cover your nose and throat when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands, and dispose of used tissues. Avoid sharing towels, drinks, or eating utensils.
- MEDICATIONS can be helpful in relieving discomfort of cold symptoms. The following is a brief description of some of the non-prescription cold medications available:

Acetaminophen (650 mg) every 4-6 hours reduces muscular aches, headaches, and fevers.
Decongestants (oral) relieve stuffiness by promoting nasal drainage. Nasal sprays provide fast relief from stuffiness but should be used no more than 3 days to avoid the "rebound effect" of increased congestion.
Cough syrups can be used to relieve cough discomfort. Expectorants help you loosen and cough up secretions (water is also an excellent expectorant). Suppressants help quell coughing but should be reserved for dry, hacking coughs that prevent sleep. Remember: coughing is a normal, protective reflex that should not be suppressed if it effectively brings up secretions.
Cough drops provide moisture and ease coughing. Many contain suppressants (check labels).
Throat lozenges provide temporary relief from sore throats. Look for ingredients that contain phenol or end in "caine".
NOTE: At present, there is no conclusive evidence that large doses of vitamin C can prevent or cure the common cold.

Consult health care personnel:

- If secretions turn yellow.
- If fever is above 101 degrees F (38.3 degrees C) for more than three days.
- If general symptoms last longer than 1-2 weeks or worsen.
- If you develop trouble breathing (wheezing, shortness of breath) or have a respiratory condition such as asthma.
- Anytime you are unsure of what to do.

Cold medicines

The following list indicates the major types of non-prescription medications available for relieving the symptoms of the Common Cold. Discount stores often carry their own products which are cheaper in price and contain the same active ingredients as brand name products. In the lists below, please note that Student Health does not endorse any one brand over others.

Analgesics (Reduce aches and fevers) Brands Side Effects/ Cautions
Aspirin Bayer, St. Joseph Side effects include upset stomach in some people. Take with full glass of water or milk. Do not take on an empty stomach.
Ibuprofen Advil, Medipren Avoid if you have ulcers.
Buffered Aspirin Bufferin, Ascriptin Usually no side effects.
Acetaminophen Tylenol, Datril Usually no side effects.
Naproxen Sodium Aleve Usually no side effects.
Cough Suppressants (Suppress cough reflex) Brands Side Effects/Cautions
Dextromethorphan Robitussin DM, Hold Lozenges, Robitussin Cough, Calmers Usually no side effects.
Cough Expectorants
(Loosen secretions)
Brands Side Effects/Cautions
Guaifenesin Robitussin DM Usually no side effects.
Oral Decongestants (Relieve nasal stuffiness by promoting nasal drainage and reducing swollen nasal passages. NOTE: You should not use decongestants or atropine-containing preparations if you have asthma, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, heart disease or glaucoma.) Pseudephedrine (Sudafed) May cause sleeplessness in some people.
Nasal Sprays (Fast relief of nasal stuffiness by promoting nasal drainage and reducing swollen nasal passages.) Various Active Agents (Afrin Spray, 4-Way Nasal Spray, Neo-Synephrine) Usually none; however, these products should be used no more than four days to avoid "rebound effect" of increased nasal congestion.
Antihistamines (Dry nasal secretions; relieve allergy symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and watery itchy eyes.) Chlorpheniramine maleate (Chlor-Trimeton) May cause dry mouth and/or drowsiness. Avoid drinking alcohol, driving or operating power tools. Best to take at bedtime.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) May cause dry mouth and/or drowsiness. Avoid drinking alcohol, driving or operating power tools. Best to take at bedtime.
Brampheniramine (Dimetapp) May cause dry mouth and/or drowsiness. Avoid drinking alcohol, driving or operating power tools. Best to take at bedtime.
Clemastine fumarate (Tavist) May cause dry mouth and/or drowsiness. Avoid drinking alcohol, driving or operating power tools. Best to take at bedtime.
Combination Products (Contain combinations of two or three of the drugs listed above for relief of cold symptoms. Read labels carefully before taking.) Various Active Agents (Sudafed Sinus, Actifed, Comtrex, Contac, Tavist D, Dayquil, etc.) Side effects include combinations of those listed above.


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