What and Why?

A cold is usually (but not always) an infection of your nose and throat with a virus, thousands of which are present in the air all around you. So why do you get so few? Because you police the places that the virus likes to colonise, and usually you win. The secret of getting colds rarely and never really suffering from them is to make sure your policing operation stays well on top of its task.

The skin inside your nose must make close contact with the air passing through, to make sure it is fit to breathe. That is where most of the viruses in it must be faced and dealt with. You make mucus and white blood cells to destroy them, which calls for lots of Vitamin C to be effective. You scarcely notice that this is going on, although your nostrils are taking it in turns to close down for routine cleaning purposes — you often have only one of them working.

If this routine fails and a virus particle manages to infect one of the cells in your nose lining, it multiplies in a few days and the fight moves on a stage: the surrounding skin gets inflamed, you make lots more mucus, and lots of white cells move in; that is when you begin to feel that something’s wrong.

Your nose now feels blocked because the contraflow arrangements break down; your nose or throat is sore, and you have lots of catarrh and perhaps a cough. But you still feel well in yourself so long as the infection is not allowed to spread.

When the infected cell bursts, thousands of carbon copies of the virus go looking for new cells to infect and your local defences kill off most of them. Any that get into your lymph passages are filtered out by your tonsils (in your throat), adenoids (in your nose) and the lymph glands in your neck. That’s what makes your neck stiff, and the effort of the struggle is enough to make you feel a bit less lively than usual; but nothing gets through to your blood-stream, and you are still not ill.

Fever and ’flu are signs that your blood-stream is infected, which only happens when your glands fail. Croup is a peculiar barking cough and breathing difficulty that happens when a virus infects your voice-box. It is very alarming to hear, especially when it affects a small child. Some children seem to get this repeatedly, and it is well worth learning the simple trick for dealing with it. This makes it no more alarming than an ordinary cold.

What can I do?

Advice to maintain and maximise health

  1. To prevent colds you need to keep up your general resistance to illness of any kind, which depends heavily on good food — especially fresh vegetables of all kinds, and wholemeal rather than white cereals and bread.
  • Make sure you have a helping of some live raw vegetable or fruit at least once a day, especially during the winter — grated carrot, shredded cabbage, sprouted seedlings.
  • One daily dose of bionatured or food-state Vitamin C 250mg is a wise supplement, and you can usefully add six tablets of Brewer’s Yeast or a dessertspoonful daily of wheatgerm to give you plenty of Vitamin B.
  • Cod or Halibut liver Oil (1 tsp or 2 capsules daily) is another useful and inexpensive item.
  • Propolis is the best natural antiseptic for when everyone around you seems to have a cold.

2. Ventilate your home and workspace well with fresh air, and make sure you breathe in through your nose (except when exercising hard). Smoking seriously undermines your resistance to infection (see also the information on adolescent smoking).

3. Anything which over-works or over-stresses you reduces your resistance, so be careful to look after yourself better than usual at these times.

4. Dress your neck warmly in cold or windy weather. It is one of the few parts of you that can chill badly otherwise. The defences in your neck work best at normal body temperature or higher, and are much less effective if your temperature drops even slightly.

5. Supplementation: As soon as you detect the least soreness in your nose, start taking bionatured or food-state Vitamin C in larger doses — 250mg every hour for several doses. This often stops the cold altogether, but almost always stops it spreading. Add propolis if you know already you are vulnerable.

6. Homoeopathic Aconite is worth trying at the first hint of a cold. See the general rules for homoeopathic medicines.

7. Raw garlic is a very effective remedy for catarrh. Put a clean fresh clove in your cheek for an hour or two at a time, like a lozenge. (See Home Remedies.)

8. Breathe as well as you can throughout a cold, and hum the sounds ’mm’ or ’nn’ to keep your sinuses free.

9. The remedy for croup is steam, and lots of it. Sit a school-child over a bowl of very hot water, under a cloth up to his top lip: get him to breathe deeply through his mouth, and breathe out through his nose. Five minutes is usually enough. For a small child boil the kettle long enough in the bathroom or his bedroom to create a warm fog, then settle him to sleep with a dose of cough syrup. Most kettles carry on boiling if you leave off the lid — but be careful not to boil it dry!

10. An ordinary cough will also respond to steam but this is inconvenient during the day. Carry one clean handkerchief with a few drops of Menthol and Eucalyptus Inhalation, in a warm pocket or sleeve. A breath of this whenever you feel a cough coming on will stop it in its tracks.

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