The Life Doctor

WINTER STARTED this week. And the weaker ones among us have already succumbed to the first cold.

"I started sniffing yesterday," says one hypochondriac. "It's the change of the season. This will carry on until April."

The average adult has three colds a year. Yet the average scientist can do nothing about it. "We can't cure the cold because it's so ubiquitous," says Sherif Mossad at the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio, and author of a recent paper on the subject in the British Medical Journal. "There are hundreds of 'serotypes' so there is not a specific therapy you could use to attack it.

"The only thing that has been shown to work is zinc [possibly because it stops the rhinovirus binding to the body]. You should start taking zinc tablets the moment the symptoms start. That may help. But we're not sure what is a safe level."

Steam inhalation has been shown to be effective in two studies but not in others. Over-the-counter cold remedies containing varying amounts of aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen and decongestant might relieve symptoms. Some studies suggest that vitamin C can reduce the symptoms by up to 23 per cent.

Since none of the treatments is scientifically proven to get rid of a cold any quicker than throwing a frog over your shoulder and shouting "cold begone!" what you need is a strategy you believe in. Life Doctor surveyed the British public and discovered three different approaches.

1) Blast it: attack is the best form of defence, 53 per cent of respondents thought. Outsmart and out-dose your virus. Treat it like getting snowed in for the winter. Buy up Vaseline (for lips and nose), multi-box soft tissues and eucalyptus rub, knock-out night treatments and slow-release daytime treatments. Contact 400, Night-Nurse, Beechams powder, Solpadeine and Sudafed were all popular. But Lemsip came out favourite. "Because it tastes horrible," said one respondent. "It feels medicinal." And don't forget complementary strategies. Curry is popular, in particular a Thai soup called Tom Yum, which contains chillies, ginger and garlic. Strong alcohol is favoured by 25 per cent of respondents. A classic blaster, John, 32, said: "I have a very hot bath, four Nurofen, and a very strong G & T (95 per cent gin, one per cent lemon, one per cent ice, and three per cent tonic). I then sleep for 48 hours. When I wake up, I am cured." Doctors don't recommend alcohol or curry (or indeed overdosing on Nurofen, readers), but Mossad says that anything that numbs the system (like hot curry) relieves the symptoms "and alcohol helps you sleep".

2) Ignore it: 20 per cent of respondents are annoyingly stiff-upper- lip. "I have no sympathy for people who take time off with a cold," said one. "You don't have to give in. You can overcome it." Actually ignorers don't overcome colds any quicker than anyone else, they just think they do. "Psychological factors would influence how badly you think you are affected, and so how bad you feel," agrees Professor Phil Evans, director of the Psychophysiology and Stress research group at Westminster University. If you can say, "I am not ill" and believe it you may feel better.

3) Indulge it: 27 per cent believe a cold is an opportunity for self- indulgence. One said, "lemon and honey. Hot baths with bath salts and hot water bottles. Boiled eggs with soldiers, hot ribena and warmed jim- jams, wrapped up in a duvet in front of weepy films for at least two days - brings it all out. No point struggling on."

Alternatively, try and avoid colds altogether. Eat healthily, take exercise, get plenty of sleep, don't get overstressed, stay happy (people who have poor social support get ill more often), and, above all, avoid snogging people with runny noses.

Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk