What can I take for the cold? That question is the great typical topic of a health center at any time of the year, because we do not catch colds only in winter.
Partly as a doctor it is understandable, but partly it is tiresome to always repeat the same words: The common cold is neither curable, nor is it a vital emergency, nor does it have optimal treatment; it passes in 5 days whether or not mediation is taken.
But it seems that, despite repeating it, we keep asking ourselves every winter what can i take for the cold. Well, today I am going to review point by point, symptom by symptom, what can we take or not based on the symptoms we suffer; forever, according to science.
What can I take for a cough?
Cough is a physiological system of our body. It can be bothersome, especially if it is dry and irritating, because our vocal cords (those muscles of the throat that allow us to speak) do not feel very well neither dryness nor cough, which could even lead us to suffer from loss of breath or loss of the voice.
We tend to look for miracles against cough, which can last according to current studies between 9 and 21 days without worrying us. If it lasted more than 4 weeks, we talk about chronic cough, and that should be studied. It is annoying to have a week with a cough, but I assure you, it can be more and not be anything serious.
Cough remedy? Hydration (water) and if it's a very irritating and dry cough, anti-inflammatory. The current medications called antitussives, some of which carry codena (a derivative of the more light morphine) they are not a good choice according to studies, and to curl the curl they also leave us unwanted side effects: Morphine and its derivatives, such as codena, produce constipation!
What can I take for nasal congestion?
Another annoying point of the common cold is nasal congestion, different from mucus (although we tend to confuse it and talk about both as if they were the same). This nasal congestion occurs because our nose becomes inflamed inside, which reduces the passage of air, and gives us that sensation of drowning so characteristic of both the common cold and allergies.
Therefore, many times it tends to be used nasal decongestants Aiming to reduce this nasal inflammation (along with antihistamines in allergies, but these are another story).
The reasonable doubt is, are nasal decongestants good for anything? According to recent studies, after a review of some studies and the performance of a more recent one, the conclusion was clear: Nasal decongestants are useless, and the only effect they do is mere placebo. In other words, it is more worth using saline or seawater than wasting money on these products. In fact, some have even been withdrawn from the market for containing pseudoephedrine, with which you can manufacture methamphetamine, as in the seriesBreaking Bad.
What can I take for mucus?
Another point to debate is the issue of mucus, which usually accompanies the mentioned nasal congestion. Nobody likes to be snotting all day, that is obvious, but what we must avoid excessively is that they accumulate or thicken. Regarding this last point, the tendency is to use the so-called mucolytics, which supposedly work by breaking the mucus to make it easier to expel it, preventing it from accumulating and becoming infected.
Again, the doubt comes: Are mucolytics useful for anything? Personally I have always believed that they are not, and that they are absolutely useless. And apparently he was right, according to an article from the past year 2003 of the Semergen Magazine: Mucolytics are NOT better than water against cold mucus.
In other words, the best option is to hydrate, thus preventing the mucus from thickening or accumulating, and to be patient with the passage of the cold.
What can I take for cold discomfort?
Regarding the global discomfort caused by both a common cold, and any other type of fairly general illness (such as a headache, for example), we know that we can do something. In this case it is called symptomatic treatment, because we only reduce the symptom of discomfort, we do not try to cure it or talk about a miraculous panacea.
We can choose either analgesic or anti-inflammatory: Paracetamol or ibuprofen?
Depending on what we seek to treat, we will use one or the other. As an example, discomfort and feverish sensation usually decrease better with paracetamol (although it takes longer to work than ibuprofen) and it has fewer side effects than anti-inflammatory drugs. On the other hand, if what we have is discomfort from excess cough or a more intense pain, ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory drugs in general are a better option, always leaving a minimum space of 8 hours between each one, and never taking two anti-inflammatories together at the same time. Also, it appears that these beneficial effects do not occur in influenza, according to some study.
Are Antibiotics Necessary in the Common Cold?
Unfortunately, many people do not usually come asking whether or not they should take antibiotics against a cold but, on too many occasions, either they take it on their own out of sheer ignorance or practically demand an antibiotic because theirs only solves with antibiotics.
We must make one thing clear: The common cold is produced by VIRUSES, and antibiotics are used to treat BACTERIA infections, so its use in the cold or flu is absolutely useless, as known examples. In addition, the current misuse of antibiotics is leading us to the dreaded resistance to antibiotics, which means that we will soon find ourselves facing serious diseases that we will not be able to treat, and that will lead to millions of deaths within a few years. We must be aware of what we do.
Myths and legends about the common cold
Despite all this explanation, and all the explanations that are given every day in a common medical consultation, the Internet continues to be filled with myths about the common cold that even today remain unmoved by the scientific evidence.
Among these myths we have the false belief that you have to eat a lot to improve faster, or you have to take a lot of vitamin C, or you don't have to drink milk, not to mention some ridiculous things like making a cold sweat. These and other niceties without any scientific evidence continue to circulate online, and we must know that they are mere bullshit without any argument.
Conclusion: the cold passes over time
To conclude, the conclusion that we must draw from all this is the same one repeated over and over again in a Spanish series a few years ago: The cold passes with paracetamol and lots of water.
Of this statement, the most exact and scientifically correct is the second, since good hydration is the essential pillar to overcome a cold. And another thing that, unfortunately, do not allow us to prescribe doctors and nobody wants to admit that it is also essential: Time. The cold resolves over time, whether we use any medication or not.