Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | 11:24 pm

Colds are a special problem in children, frequently causing ear infections as well as other complications. Also, many childhood diseases start with the symptoms of a cold.

I hope I can convince you that colds can also be serious in adults. Many people feel that there is no need to bother about a cold, and they go their regular way in spite of it. This is dangerous. A cold is potentially serious, because it is frequently accompanied by complications, including diseases such as pneumonia. A cold should be regarded as an illness that must be prevented or treated.

The cause and prevention of colds

Colds are caused by a virus to which the body is particularly susceptible when its resistance is lowered. Although this virus itself is not able to do much damage, it paves the way for more dangerous types of micro-organisms.

People who have this virus in its active form—that is, people who have a cold, especially in its early stages—spread it to others. It can be transmitted by close contact, particularly kissing, by handling contaminated objects such as handkerchiefs, and by using contaminated drinking glasses or utensils. But the main method of transmission is a cough or sneeze. You should keep out of crowds as much as possible during a wave of colds, especially if there is much influenza and pneumonia associated with them. Some immunity follows a cold, but it is usually brief, so do not count on it.

Taking vitamins does not prevent or cure a cold. Of course, it pays to eat a well-balanced diet. People in good physical condition are better able to resist some of the complications that may follow a cold.

Chilling lowers the body’s resistance to colds. This varies a great deal in people, some of whom become chilled very easily. Get into warm, dry clothes as soon as you can after being wet or chilly.

Unfortunately, most people cannot afford to—or do not want to —call the doctor for an ordinary cold. That is why I am going to tell you what to do for one. However, there are certain people who must see a physician. Even mild colds can represent a severe threat to their health, possibly to their lives. A pregnant woman should report a cold to her doctor. A doctor should be called promptly when anyone with one of the following diseases catches a cold:


Rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease Chronic bronchitis or bronchiectasis Bronchial asthma

Kidney disease, especially Bright’s disease and chronic pyelonephritis Severe liver disease Severe diabetes

Heart disease that is severe enough to cause shortness of breath Asthma

Severe sinusitis


(posted in General health)

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