There is no cure for common cold or Zukam as such. But a few dos and don’ts can help you sail through harsh winters smoothly. Saima Bhat finds out
With the first wave of cold in Kashmir, Saba starts sneezing from the time she comes out of her bed. If incidentally, she inhales dust it gets aggravated. Even minor variation in temperature, from her bedroom to kitchen downstairs, creates problems for her. Saba, who suffers from sinusitis, is dependent on nasal drops for a hassle free breathing.
“Besides sneezing,” says Saba, “I constantly have headaches with dizziness and puffiness in eyes.”
Over the years Saba tried everything: steam inhalation, allopathic medicines etc. but nothing seems to ease her woes. “I consulted a number of doctors who end up recommending the same thing: surgery.”
Then, on her father’s suggestion, Saba consulted a Unani doctor who advised her to try alternative or traditional method of treatment. “It helped to some extent, but for a student like me it was not possible to make Sharbets thrice a day,” says Saba, who is doing research in media studies from Patiala, Punjab. “I left the treatment mid-way as it was time consuming and needed pa-tience. I am thinking of trying homeopathic treatment.”
Despite doctors advising her otherwise, Saba is completely de-pendent on nasal drops as it helps her breath easily. “At least I can feel my nose,” says Saba with a chuckle.
Things get relatively better as soon as she lands in Punjab. “Ex-treme dry weather in Kashmir aggravates my problems. But once I am outside Kashmir, where air is usually moist, I feel relieved,” says Saba.
Shazia, 30, a private employee, too complains of nose blocking. But her cause of problem is different. She complains of contract-ing viral infection that attacks her upper respiratory track: nose and throat, every time she comes in contact with a flu patient.
“Saba and Shazia’s case is special,” feels Dr Rouf Ahmad, an ENT specialist, “Generally common cold is harmless despite running nose, sore throat and cough, or sometimes watery eyes, sneezing and congestion. It needs no treatment.”
Rouf says, antibiotics are given to those patients only who have bacterial infections as they need extra antibiotics cover. They also need treatment for symptomatic problems like fever, sore throat etc.
Most of the people complain of catching flu once the season changes. “There is a difference between seasonal flu, allergy and virus,” feels Dr Altaf Hussain Shah, senior consultant at AAYUSH centre at SMSH.
During winters, people complain of common cold, mostly spread through cross infections or droplet infections or because of sud-den change in the temperature. Doctors say more than 100 vi-ruses can cause common cold, but the rhinovirus is the most common culprit, as it’s highly contagious.
Cold viruses are always present in the environment. But the fac-tors like age, immunity, time of the year, acute ear infection, wheezing and other secondary infections, can increase chances of getting cold. However if it leads to strep throat (streptococcal pharyngitis), pneumonia, and croup or bronchiolitis in children, it should be treated by a doctor only.
There is no cure for the common cold as such; however one can go for influenza vaccines, which help in protecting patients from getting virus. “These vaccines are single strains and can protect from just one particular virus,” says Dr Rouf.
Antibiotics are of no use against cold viruses. Over-the-counter (OTC) cold preparations won’t cure common cold or make it go away any sooner, and most of them have side effects as well.
“Antivirals are not given to patients until it is associated with a secondary line of ailments like diabetes, immune deficiency state, if a patient is on steroids or is a carcinoma patient,” says Dr Rouf.
Under Unani treatments, cold is of two types: Zukaam, which means running nose or Nazla and phlegm which gets sticked to throat. “We recommend Sherbet of Jujube (Unaab), quince apple, Saag leaves, which acts as decongestants and gives symptomatic relief for Zukaam and in case of Nazla, we recommend Shangir, Kah Zabaan and Jujube,” says Dr Shah.
The traditional way of treating common cold also involves drink-ing lots of fluids, chicken soup – which relieves cold and flu symp-toms as it acts as anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils-immune system cells helping body’s response to inflammation. These fluids also temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the time viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.
Besides that adjusting room temperature, taking rest, saltwater gargles, saline nasal drops, always helps in common cold.
Combination of milk and turmeric, ginger tea, lemon and honey, Basil leaves and ginger, and garlic drinks can helps in preventing the symptoms of flu.
In spite of ongoing studies, researchers are working how the use of chicken soup gives relief. And they are also studying alterna-tive cold remedies of vitamin C, Zinc and echinacea.
Among randomly selected twenty people, seventeen among them complained that they get common cold before every sea-sonal change and taking medicines never protected them from getting cold.
Sana shares her cold gets worst as she is having acute tonsillitis.
“I have to take 1200 mg amoxicillin, antibiotics, and only then some of my secondary ailments get eased out. Otherwise with the swelling in throat, blocked nose, paining ears and cough I have to take extra oxygen,” says Sana, a tonsillitis patient who remains bed ridden for at least eight days after catching common cold. “But once I pass on the virus to another human being, I au-tomatically feel relieved,” says Sana.