We usually catch a cold from someone who has one. Viruses, microscopic organisms that can only grow inside living cells, most often cause colds.
Colds are spread in three ways: indirectly through the air, directly through physical contact, such as drinking from an infected person’s used cup.
Contrary to folk wisdom, catching a cold is unrelated to exposure to cold or rainy weather, going outside with wet hair, or walking barefoot on a cold floor.
Researchers think people catch colds more easily in winter because they spend more time indoors and are more likely to contact infected people indoors. Humidity lowers in cold air, causing nasal passages to dry and become vulnerable to viral infection.
Nose and throat linings include mucous cells, or goblet cells, that produce mucus that traps dust and other particles such as viruses. Epithelial cells that line the passages leading out the body have cilia, which are microscopic hairs. The cilia sweep the mucus and any trapped virus germs to the back of the throat. Gastric juices swallow and digest the mucus.
When low humidity dries the mucus and causes the cilia to become sluggish, viruses easily invade the nasal lining cells. Once a virus invades, typical cold symptoms may appear: runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat.
Some cold viruses can remain infectious for several hours outside the body and can cause infection through contact with the mucous membrane linings of the eyes, nose or mouth. If you touch an infected surface and rub your eye, you can get a cold.
A cure for the common cold does not exist. The common cold is a collection of symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat and cough. Because of the countless cold-causing organisms, finding a cure is virtually impossible. Most viruses are simple in construction. These microscopic particles contain some DNA or RNA, which are the genetic material of a cell, surrounded by a protein coating. Viruses invade the nose and throat cells, changing their chemical makeup. One virus can produce more viruses that spread to other cells and repeat the disease process.
Modern medicine cannot cure the cold but it does treat the symptoms. Medicines can only relieve coughing, congestion, sore throat, and sneezing.
So, if you are suffering from a cold, it is your body’s way of warning you to slow down, to take a break and to rest. Our body is built with an immune system that fights ailments naturally. While your body is recovering, why not try some of these natural remedies out. They are inexpensive and have no side effects:
- Chicken soup. (see this classic recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/simple-chicken-soup.html) Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children. Now scientists have put chicken soup to the test, discovering that it does have effects that might help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils-immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining.
- Ginger root. Another folk remedy for cough, colds and sore throat. It’s used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat coughs and is also for colds accompanied by runny nose with a clear nasal discharge, headache, neck and shoulder aches, and a white tongue coating. In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, ginger is also used for cough and colds.
- Garlic. One of the more popular home cures for colds. Many cultures have a home remedy for the cold using garlic, whether it’s chicken soup with lots of garlic, a drink made with raw crushed garlic, or if it just involves eating raw garlic. The cold-fighting compound in garlic is thought to be allicin, which has demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal properties. To maximize the amount of allicin, fresh garlic should be chopped or crushed and it should be raw.
Garlic does have some possible side effects and safety concerns. Bad breath and body odor are perhaps the most common side effects. Garlic supplements should be avoided by people with bleeding disorders, two weeks before or after surgery, or by those taking “blood-thinning” medications. Garlic may also lower blood glucose levels and increase the release of insulin, so it should be used with caution by people taking drugs that lower blood sugar. Pregnant women should avoid garlic in supplement form because it may increase the risk of bleeding.
Although minor colds can make you feel miserable, it’s tempting to try the latest remedy, but the best thing you can do is to take care of yourself. Rest, drink fluids and keep the air around you moist. Remember to wash your hands frequently.
- Honey& Cinnamon. Honey has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-microbial properties. Many studies have shown that it is effective at fighting external and internal infections. Cinnamon contains anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties.Honey and cinnamon are powerful immune boosters. You can use this remedy to not only reduce the severity of your cold, but also prevent future colds or other viruses.Together these two ingredients make a super healing combination.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. It contains potassium, which thins mucus; and the acetic acid in it prevents germ growth, which could contribute to nasal congestion. Mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink to help sinus drainage.
- Eucalyptus Oil. It contains antibacterial action on pathogenic bacteria in the upper respiratory tract. Eucalyptus oil is said to implement the innate cell-mediated immune response.