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It seems to be a cold! 7 questions about the disease and answers to them

It seems to be a cold! 7 questions about the disease and answers to them

You’ve probably seen a chain reaction: on Monday, only one of the family members (or employees) has a runny nose, and after a couple of days everyone sneezes, coughs and feels unwell. How does a cold appear? What can you do to avoid giving in to it? The book “Immunity” will tell about this. We chose answers to some common questions.

How to avoid?

In the middle of the 19th century, the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis made a discovery of colossal importance: he noticed that childbirth fever especially often begins in those women with whom doctors worked, who had recently performed an autopsy, but had not washed their hands. It turned out that you can reduce the number of infected women in labor by simply washing your hands properly. Semmelweis died before his hypothesis was confirmed and received widespread acceptance, however, the habit of regularly washing hands remains one of the key tools in the fight against infections today.

We cannot be responsible for the behavior of already infected people, but we can adjust our own habits and increase our level of protection.

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Is the person contagious before symptoms appear?

It often happens that a person has already become infected, but the symptoms have not yet appeared. Much depends on the nature of the microorganisms that caused the disease. For example, respiratory viruses begin to spread especially actively when symptoms of illness appear and you start sneezing or coughing frequently. But often we infect others, although we ourselves do not seem to get sick. With the flu, a person becomes contagious about a day before symptoms appear and remains so for 5-7 days after the onset of the illness. Children and immunocompromised patients can spread the virus for a particularly long time.

If you get cold, can you catch a cold?

“Dress warmly, otherwise you will catch a cold” – we are sure that you have heard this phrase more than once in your childhood. Most of us now know that the cold has nothing to do with it. The cold is caused by a rhinovirus. On average, about every fifth is its carrier in the tissues of the nasal passages (“rhinos” in translation from Greek means “nose”). Three factors must match for you to become infected:

  • The virus needs a way to get out of the reservoir (that is, from the body of a sick person sitting next to it);
  • He needs the ability to move from the host’s body to a new body (the host sneezes, and up to 40 thousand drops containing the virus fly out of his nose; you run the risk of inhaling one of them and getting infected);
  • It is required to stay in a new organism (in yours).

Then what does the cold have to do with it? There is still some truth in the advice to dress warmer. It has been proven that if you stay in the cold for a long time, the body is unable to quickly trigger the most effective immune response when needed. For most healthy people, this is not so important, but the elderly, toddlers or people with chronic diseases, it is true, risk more with hypothermia, since their immune system may not be able to cope with the virus.

Knock down the temperature or let the body “fight”?

You may have heard that the symptoms of certain diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi, but this is not entirely true. The set of symptoms is associated with a nonspecific immune response, which is provided by the cells of innate immunity.

In the case of a cold, your immunity begins to fight the rhinovirus, which has entered the body through the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract. Under the influence of the immune system, the vessels dilate, their permeability increases, so that proteins and white blood cells quickly enter the infected tissues of the nose, sinuses and throat. Immunity with the help of the so-called interferon network – the first line of defense – unfolds real military actions right at the entrance gate of the infection, which is expressed in nasal congestion, increased capillary permeability, and increased mucous discharge (runny nose). Next, closing the cascade of protective reactions, the temperature rises.


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In the course of evolution, we have developed an interesting mechanism for survival: the body temperature rises in response to the penetration of infection into the body. When the temperature is higher than normal, it is much more difficult for viruses to multiply, and this helps the immune system to get rid of dangerous microorganisms faster. It has been proven that high temperatures often increase the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Understanding these principles has led to the emergence of two attractive but opposing points of view. On the one hand, fever is a normal part of the immune response to infection, so there is no need to knock it down. On the other hand, a high fever can also be a dangerous consequence of an infection, so it is important to bring it down to prevent complications. What do scientists say about this? There is practically no evidence proving the danger of high temperatures to the body. If the patient does not experience severe discomfort, if there is no respiratory failure, or if the temperature does not last longer than a couple of days, then, as a rule, you should not take either paracetamol or ibuprofen, as they have side effects. Immunity will do its job, even if you bring down the temperature, but somewhat less efficiently. By lowering your degrees, you will not speed up your recovery.

Over-the-counter remedies: to drink or not to drink?

No one wants to stay at home with the flu or cold. Should you use numerous over-the-counter drugs? Most cough syrups are ineffective for either adults or children. Cold medicines usually do not treat or shorten the course of the illness, but in some cases they can relieve symptoms in adults. It is possible that the placebo effect is manifested here: it seems like a person takes care of himself with all his might – and immediately feels better. However, all these medicines will not cure the disease.

Before taking any medications, consult at least with the seller in the pharmacy (or better, of course, with your doctor). There is a simple folk remedy with which you can ease the course of a cold, and most importantly, recover faster, – a good rest.

Does sleep affect immunity?

Yes. It has been reliably proven that even if we slept poorly or little for only one night, the number of killer cells in the body, which constitute the first line of defense against viruses and detect cancer cells, is dramatically reduced. This reduction – sometimes up to 70% – means that we find ourselves practically unprotected from danger. The number of other immune cells can change in a similar way.


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If you have colds, make sure you sleep well enough. For those who sleep an average of 6 or less hours a day, the risk of catching a cold in the presence of a virus nearby increases 4 times compared to those who, on average, rest more than 7 hours at night. It is possible that this is why by the end of the New Year’s party season, some begin to get very sick.

Do honey, lemon, and ginger help?

None of the ingredients heal the common cold, and there is no actual evidence that they accelerate recovery. Although, if we talk about honey, then in the fight against cough in children, it turned out to be more effective than dextromethorphan (the active ingredient in most cough medicines). And in combination with a hot drink, supertrio soothes and retains fluid in the body, therefore it has a right to exist as a cheap alternative to OTC drugs.

Based on materials from the book “Immunity”

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