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February 16, 1996 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-02-16

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Still no quick cures for runny noses.


t's beshert! As I write this
article about the common
cold, my eyes are watery
and feel gritty, my nose is
red and sore from blowing,
my lips are dried and
cracked from breathing
through my mouth, and I
get a headache every time the
barometer moves. I don't feel sick,
but I have slowed down. The
sneezing is annoying, and the
runny nose is depressing.
You would think that after in-
terviewing physicians and re-
searching the literature on what
it takes to prevent a cold and how
to manage the symptoms, I could
do better.
"There are over 200 different
viruses that cause colds, which
explains why you frequently get
them," reports Dr. Michael Rowe,
director of the Allergy and Asth-
ma Center of Michigan in Novi.

"Half of these are identified from
the family of rhinoviruses that
cause 30 to 50 percent of the colds.
It's this large number of viruses
which makes it almost impossi-
ble to build an immunity to the
common cold. Your defense sys-
tem can't keep up with the con-
stantly changing viruses. You
could have a vaccine against one
virus, but the other 201 could give
you your next cold. That's why it's
not unusual for the average adult
to have from four to six colds a
year and for a child to have some-
where between eight and 10 colds
a year."
A cold is an inflammation of
the upper respiratory tract caused
by a viral infection. It usually be-
gins when a rhinovirus enters the
body directly through the nose or
through the eyes and makes its
way down the tear duct to the
nasal passages. From the nose
it moves to the back of the throat,


Dr. Michael Rowe

where it spreads and infects oth-
er cells. It's at that point when
you feel a scratch at the back of
your throat, the warning sign that
larger problems—sneezing, con-
gestion, coughing, and runny nose
— are just a day away.
Researchers have found that
it's not the infection that's mak-
ing you miserable, but your body's
defense strategy against the
virus. The infected cells release
various virus-fighting substances
in your body that actually make
up the symptoms of the cold.
They're the ones producing more
mucus, which accounts for your
runny nose and leads to coughing
and sneezing.
According to Dr. Rowe, most
colds are caught by respiratory
droplets from someone else's
sneeze or cough that lands on a
doorknob, telephone, toy, or, say,
a magazine. A healthy person can
catch a cold by standing in an el-
evator next to someone who
sneezes, or by touching a conta-
minated surface, or by shaking
the hand of someone with a cold.
"People don't realize that these
respiratory droplets can last for
a number of hours on your hands
or on hard surfaces," explains Dr.
Rowe. "And since people tend to

touch their faces once every 20
seconds, they bring the cold virus
to their own eyes and noses and
increase their chances of catch-
ing a cold."
Interestingly, the best way to
avoid getting a cold is to wash
your hands — a lot. Thorough
hand-washing and disinfecting
kitchen and bathroom counters
gives some protection against
"Young children in day care
centers should be washing their
hands once an hour," declares Dr.
Sander Kushner, chairman of the
department of family practice at
Sinai Hospital. "Young children
usually don't blow their noses
when they need to, or hold a tis-
sue to their mouth when they
cough or sneeze. They are very
good at passing the cold virus
Dr. Kushner also advises get-
ting lots of rest and maintaining
your general health as ways to
prevent a cold.
"If you're working hard, not
getting enough rest or under a lot
of stress, your body defenses are
going to be down," Dr. Kushner
says. "There is enough evidence

COLDS page 44





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