With almost a third (31 per cent) of all sick days taken in the UK blamed on the dreaded cold virus, it is more than likely that you missed a day of work in the last 12 months as a result of the common cold, according to a new survey by herbal cold remedy, Kaloba. But how much do we really know about this familiar illness?
GP and chairman of the NHS Alliance and College of Medicine, Dr Michael Dixon, answers the most frequently asked questions surrounding the sniffles and separates the cold facts from the fiction:
What is a ‘common cold’ exactly?
“The common cold is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the lining of the nose and throat.
It is caused by around 200 different types of virus, which makes it the most common illness worldwide, and therefore very difficult to avoid!
“Rhinoviruses account for approximately 30-50 per cent of adult colds. However, other viruses such as coronavirus and the influenza virus can also cause symptoms similar to the common cold. It is very difficult to identify the nature of a virus infection from its symptoms, as these are very similar across the whole range of viruses.”
Why am I more likely to come down with a cold during the winter months?
“Everyone has heard the old wives’ tales linking cold weather to illness, such as going out with wet hair will cause you to catch a cold, but there is actually little truth in this. The human body relies on a complex set of mechanisms in order to maintain itself; body temperature is one of them. Although our outer-body temperature will vary according to the external conditions, our core body temperature usually remains constant at around 37°C. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the scorching sun or winter chill, your chance of contracting a cold based on the weather is no different.”
But how does this explain the increase in the cold virus during winter months?
“A much more likely explanation for this increase is the fact that, in winter, people will tend to stay indoors more often. Staying in a closed-air environment, in close contact with other people for extended periods of time will increase the risk of virus transmission. At any given time, there will be several people infected with a form of the cold virus, without necessarily displaying symptoms.”
Can I catch a cold from a kiss?
“Although it’s wise to avoid any physical contact when you’re infected with the cold virus, saliva actually carries less cold virus than nasal drip and phlegm. Therefore, you are more likely to infect someone with a cough than a kiss. Remember to try and not shake hands with people who are coughing and sneezing, as they are likely to touch their face and noses.”
When am I most infectious?
“You are most infectious when you display the early symptoms of coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. The cold viruses replicate in the cells lining the nose and they are coughed or sneezed out in droplets of mucus.
“We can also spread the virus on our fingers when we contaminate them with secretions from the nose. For the infection to spread, a person carrying the virus must have close and prolonged contact with other people.”
Sadly, the British public are very good at sharing their viruses and infecting others, not only in the workplace but on their daily commute too. The Kaloba survey found that many of us think the most common place to pick up germs is on public transport such as trains, buses, trams and taxis, which could be because one in 10 has sneezed on public transport without covering their mouth. Unbelievably one in three people admits to wiping their nose on their sleeve , which unfortunately means someone who sits in close proximity to you on a daily basis could be rubbing their germs on you!
When should I visit my GP?
Although most cold symptoms can be relieved with plenty of rest and over-the-counter medicines, you should visit your GP if:
- You are having difficulty breathing
- You are coughing excessively and it is causing pain and discomfort
- You experience a fever for several days
- You are coughing up blood or yellow/green mucus
- Your cold symptoms remain for more than a week
Do antibiotics work?
“Antibiotics do not treat the causes of the common cold, which is caused by 200 different types of virus. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, not viral ones, and are not only useless in fighting colds, but overuse can lead to some bacterial infections becoming resistant to antibiotics.”
Will there ever be a cure for the common cold?
“There is currently no miracle cure for the common cold, which is not to say that there will never be one. The closest and best researched cold remedy currently is an extract of Pelargonium sidoides EPs®7630, a medicinal plant native to South Africa, which has been found to possess significant antibacterial and antiviral properties, as well as the ability to clear mucus from the nasal passages.
“New research in Pelargonium adds to a growing number of positive published clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy, safety and tolerability of this herbal extract, which is now the most researched herbal cough and cold medicine available worldwide.”
Kaloba, which contains extract of Pelargonium sidoides EPs 7630, is licensed to relieve upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold. Kaloba has been scientifically proven to shorten the duration of upper respiratory tract infections, such as acute bronchitis and the common cold, and it also reduce the severity of the symptoms. Much research has been carried out that demonstrates valuable pharmacological activity of extract Pelargonium sidoides EPs7630. In addition, many clinical trials involving more than 9,200 adults and children have been carried out demonstrating the efficacy, safety and tolerability of this natural product with excellent results. Unlike many herbal cold remedies, such as Echinacea, Kaloba is also suitable for asthma sufferers and other vulnerable patient groups.
Studies have shown that Kaloba has a triple action effect:
- Anti-viral: stimulates killer t-cell production, they attack viruses
- Anti-bacterial: prevents attachment and multiplication of bacteria and viruses
- Removes mucus more effectively from nasal packages
The Kaloba range includes convenient tablets, traditional oral drops and a brand NEW sugar-free syrup formulation, which is both alcohol and additive free and should be taken at the first sign of a cold. Kaloba syrup and Kaloba oral drops are suitable to be taken by children 6 years and over and Kaloba® tablets from 12 years. Kaloba is available in Boots and other leading pharmacy and health food stores nationwide (RRPs: Liquid 20ml £8.16, Liquid 50ml £15.31, Tablets 21 £9.18, Syrup 100ml £7.99).