Acute Care: Injuries and Illnesses
COUGH & COLD
- scratchy or sore throat
- runny nose
- tenderness around the eyes
- stuffy nose
- watery eyes
- full feeling in the ears
- cough: dry or with white or clear mucus
- general tired feeling
- fever below 101 degrees
- mild headache
- muscle and body aches
Methods of Spreading
The common cold can be caused by any of more than 200 viruses. These
viruses attack and multiply in cells that line the nose and throat.
Colds are most commonly spread hand to hand. For example, if you shake,
touch or hold the hand of an infected person and then touch your eyes or
nose, you are likely to infect yourself with the virus. You can also
catch a cold if you touch your eyes or nose after touching a hard
surface--such as a telephone or doorknob--shortly after an infected
person touched it. Just because you are exposed does not necessarily
mean you will become infected. It depends on your immune system and
history of previous exposure to the virus.
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- Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
- Use disposable tissues.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Avoid prolonged contact with people who have colds.
- Keep your stress level down.
- Keep your room humidity at moderate to high.
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General Treatment Measures
Rest more and avoid your usual exercise regimen until the cold has
resolved. Drink at least eight ounces of liquids every two hours to help
soothe the throat and relieve nasal congestion If a fever is present,
more fluids are needed to replenish those lost due to the elevation in
body temperature. Refrain from smoking. Smoking irritates inflamed
nasal passages and paralyzes the cilia which clear mucus from the lungs.
Do not take "left over," or old, or your roommate’s antibiotics.
Do not drink alcohol because it decreases your resistance and may
interact with medications.
Eat a well-balanced diet which includes fruits, vegetables, and grains.
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The following products may be purchased at any pharmacy. It is safe to
take any of the mentioned medications in combination with each other to
manage the symptoms listed.
Pseudo-ephedrine (i.e., Sudafed) Runny nose and congestion may be
relieved by decongestants, but these medications can cause sleeplessness
and decreased appetite.
Salt water nasal sprays (i.e. NaSal or Ocean) may ease nasal congestion
and make mucus less thick. Do not use medicated nose sprays (like Afrin)
without health-care provider direction because excessive use can cause
dependence and may make congestion worse.
A cool mist humidifier (not steam which can burn) or a hot shower may
help to moisten nasal passages and clear mucus. Humidifiers are a good,
low-cost investment during the dry Maryland Eastern Shore winters.
A cough is a protective reflex and is not bad per se. However, cough
suppressants containing dextromethorphan may be used if a cough is
interfering with sleep or work.
Phenol Lozenges and sprays containing phenol are particularly effective
as pain relievers for sore throat. Gargling with warm salt water (one
tsp. salt in one cup of hot water) 3-4 times a day may also help ease
sore throat pain by helping to reduce swelling of the tonsils.
Acetaminophen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen. It will be helpful for you to get on
a regular schedule of pain reliever. For example, take one ibuprofen or
two regular strength acetaminophen tablets every four to six hours. Be
sure to follow the instructions on the bottle and do not exceed the
daily limit. If this is not effective in controlling your fever/pain,
you may alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen every two hours. If you
are under the age of 19 do not use aspirin.
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You can use multi-symptom cold remedies but they are expensive and
contain ingredients you may not need and ingredient doses which may be
too low to be effective. Antihistamines are not recommended as they may
make you drowsy and have an undesirable drying effect on mucus
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma, heart disease,
thyroid disease, any other chronic medical problem, or suspect you are
pregnant, consult your physician before taking any medication. Carefully
follow any instructions that accompany your medication.
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Echinacea-Echinacea has been shown to boost the immune system, hinder
colds and flu, fight bacterial and viral infections, and lower fever.
Echinacea contains complex sugar molecules that stimulate the cells of
the immune system, including white blood cells. It also supports the
production of interferon, an
important part of the immune response to viral infections that cause
colds and flu. Echinacea can be taken in several ways, the most popular
being tea, extract (tincture), and capsules. If you are using Echinacea
to prevent colds, you need to take it at the first sign of a cold. Don’t
wait until your nose is running and your cough has settled in. Some
professionals believe that Echinacea worsens the effects of auto-immune
disorders. Until sufficient evidence emerges, Echinacea should not be
used by those suffering from auto-immune diseases.
Licorice - Licorice is used to treat sore throats and cough. This herb
is very sweet due to its high content of glycyrrhizin. Glycyrrhizin is
responsible for most of licorice’s medicinal properties, including its
ability to soothe throat tissue. Licorice is effective when taken as a
syrup or throat lozenge. People with kidney or heart problems or a
history of high blood pressure should avoid regular use of licorice as
it may cause salt and water retention.
Elderberry-Elderberry is commonly used to treat the runny nose and sore
throat associated with the common cold. Elderberry works by inducing
sweating and stimulating circulation. It also has cough suppressant
effects. Elderberry can be taken in several ways, the most popular being
tea, extract (tincture), and capsules.
Vitamin C-Contrary to popular belief, vitamin C doesn’t prevent you from
getting a cold. Studies have shown, however, that it reduces the
duration of a cold and the severity of symptoms by an average of 23%.
Two to four grams a day during the cold episode seem to be most
effective without causing diarrhea. Doses should not exceed six grams a
day or rebound scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) can occur when mega doses
of vitamin C are discontinued.
Zinc Gluconate-Zinc gluconate lozenges have been found helpful in
reducing the duration of cold symptoms, particularly when started within
the first 24 hours of cold onset. The most common complaints/side
effects include bad taste, mouth irritation, and nausea.
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When do you need to see a Nurse or
Call if you have tried the self-care measures discussed above and your
symptoms persist or worsen. Specific warning signs and symptoms which
may indicate the need for more prompt evaluation include:
- Temperature greater than 101 degrees for more than two days
- Marked pain in the ears, face or chest
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Cough producing dark, colored sputum
- Persistently green mucus from the nose
- Persistent and severe sore throat, particularly if you are unable to
swallow or open your mouth
- Severe headache or stiff neck
- Skin rashes or bruising of your skin
- Cold symptoms that last beyond 10-14 days without improvement
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