How to Live A Better Life: Avoiding and Treating Common Cold


One most frequently asked question in winters is how can we avoid getting common cold? And if we do, how do we treat it? According to an article in Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) washing hands with a good soap and zinc are best for prevention whereas acetaminophen, ibuprofen and perchance antihistamine-decongestant combinations are the feasible option to treat common cold.The common cold affects everyone; adults  2-3 times a year and infants approximately 6 times a year. Its duration can be 1-3 days long or in worse cases, 3 weeks.

“Although self-limiting, the common cold is highly prevalent and may be debilitating. It causes declines in function and productivity at work and may affect other activities such as driving,” write Drs. Michael Allan, Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, and Bruce Arroll, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

So what really works?19656


Clean hands: a study conducted on of 67 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) showed that the most effective way to avoid getting common cold is the traditional hand washing technique. Alcohol disinfectants and gloves work well too.

Zinc may work for infants and for adults as well. At least 2 RCTs showed that children who took 10 or 15 mg of zinc sulfate everyday caught cold lesser times and had fewer absences from school because of cold

Probiotics: There is some evidence that probiotics used in specific combinations of organisms (pills, liquids, etc.) help too.


Antihistamines mixed with decongestants and/or pain medications prove to be effective in treating colds in older children and adults. This treatment is not affective in infants under  the age of 5.

Pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen treat pain and fever. Ibuprofen work well for fever in children.

Nasal sprays: Ipratropium, a drug used to treat allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, may ease runny nose when used in a nasal spray but it has no effect on congestion.

Other approaches and treatments

“Much more evidence now exists in this area, but many uncertainties remain regarding interventions to prevent and treat the common cold,” write the authors. “We focused on RCTs and systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs for therapy, but few of the studies had a low risk of bias. However, many of the results were inconsistent and had small effects (e.g., vitamin C), which arouses suspicion that any noted benefit may represent bias rather than a true effect.”


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