Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Preventing, treating common cold: Nothing to sneeze at

Date:
January 27, 2014
Source:
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Summary:
How do you prevent and treat the common cold? Handwashing and zinc may be best for prevention whereas acetaminophen, ibuprofen and perhaps antihistamine-decongestant combinations are the recommended treatments, according to a review.

How do you prevent and treat the common cold? Handwashing and zinc may be best for prevention whereas acetaminophen, ibuprofen and perhaps antihistamine-decongestant combinations are the recommended treatments, according to a review in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The common cold is well, common, affecting adults approximately 2-3 times a year and children under age 2 approximately 6 times a year. Symptoms such as sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, cough and malaise are usually worse in days 1-3 and can last 7-10 days, sometimes as long as 3 weeks.

"Although self-limiting, the common cold is highly prevalent and may be debilitating. It causes declines in function and productivity at work and may affect other activities such as driving," write Drs. Michael Allan, Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, and Bruce Arroll, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Colds are also costly. It is estimated that direct medical costs in the United States, including physician visits, secondary infections and medications for colds, were an estimated $17 billion a year in 1997. Indirect costs from missed work for illness or to look after a sick child were an estimated $25 billion per year.

Most colds are caused by viruses, with only about 5% of clinically diagnosed colds having a bacterial infection, yet antibiotics are sometimes used inappropriately for viral infections.

The review, aimed at physicians and patients, looked at available evidence for both traditional and nontraditional approaches for preventing and alleviating colds.

What works?

Prevention

  • Clean hands: a review of 67 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicated that handwashing, a traditional public health approach, as well as alcohol disinfectants and gloves, is likely effective.
  • Zinc may work for children (and possibly adults) -- at least 2 RCTs indicated that children who took 10 or 15 mg of zinc sulfate daily had lower rates of colds and fewer absences from school due to colds. The authors suggest that zinc may also work for adults.
  • Probiotics: there is some evidence that probiotics may help prevent colds, although the types and combinations of organisms varied in the studies as did the formulations (pills, liquids, etc.), making comparison difficult.

Treatment

  • Antihistamines combined with decongestants and/or pain medications appear to be somewhat or moderately effective in treating colds in older children -- but not in children under age 5 -- and adults.
  • Pain relievers: ibuprofen and acetaminophen help with pain and fever. Ibuprofen appears better for fever in children.
  • Nasal sprays: ipratropium, a drug used to treat allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, may alleviate runny nose when used in a nasal spray but has no effect on congestion.

Other approaches and treatments

According to the evidence, the benefits of frequently used remedies such as ginseng, (found in ColdFX), gargling, vapour rubs and homeopathy are unclear. Cough medicines show no benefit in children but may offer slight benefit in adults. Honey has a slight effect in relieving cough symptoms in children over age 1. Vitamin C and antibiotics show no benefit, and misused antibiotics can have associated harms.

The authors note that the evidence for preventing and treating colds is often of poor quality and has inconsistent results.

"Much more evidence now exists in this area, but many uncertainties remain regarding interventions to prevent and treat the common cold," write the authors. "We focused on RCTs and systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs for therapy, but few of the studies had a low risk of bias. However, many of the results were inconsistent and had small effects (e.g., vitamin C), which arouses suspicion that any noted benefit may represent bias rather than a true effect."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Canadian Medical Association Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. Michael Allan And Bruce Arroll. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ, January 2014

Cite This Page:

Canadian Medical Association Journal. "Preventing, treating common cold: Nothing to sneeze at." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140127122729.htm>.
Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2014, January 27). Preventing, treating common cold: Nothing to sneeze at. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140127122729.htm
Canadian Medical Association Journal. "Preventing, treating common cold: Nothing to sneeze at." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140127122729.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of Ebola. Health experts credit a bit of luck and the government's initial response. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) An ingredient in erectile-dysfunction medications such as Viagra could improve heart function. Perhaps not surprising, given Viagra's history. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 20, 2014) Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were cleared overnight of twice-daily monitoring after 21 days of showing no symptoms. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he expects revised CDC protocols on Ebola to focus on training, observation and ensuring health care workers are more protected. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins