Counseling Sheet

Prevention And Treatment of Colds

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Colds are caused by viruses, which are always present in the nose and throat of most of the population. At times, these viruses increase in number or activity and thereby increase their likelihood of infecting a susceptible person. Additionally, the condition of the body makes one more easily infected at certain times than others. Cold viruses are of such a nature that they do not strongly stimulate the immune mechanism of the body. Colds do not produce a high fever or a large quantity of white blood cells and antibodies in the blood. These are the defense mechanisms of the body and will help rid the body of invading organisms, if a vigorous stimulus arouses them to action. How this stimulus can be given is the subject of this column.

White blood cells increase in the bloodstream under certain conditions. After taking an ordinary cleansing shower, the white blood cell count may increase by several hundred. Before the bath, the count may be 5,000. After the bath, it may be 6,100. Similarly, exercise can increase the white blood cell count in the bloodstream. After vigorous exercise, the count may rise by one or two thousand cells per cubic millimeter. The extra blood cells come from the spleen, the bone marrow, and from various tissues of the body, where they have been kept in reserve.

Not only can the number of white blood cells increase, but they can be made more "hungry." Ordinarily, a white blood cell can "eat" 14 germs of a certain kind in 30 minutes. However, if one eats a heavy dessert, as the sugar level rises in the blood, the number of germs that the white blood cells can eat goes down promptly. The same thing occurs with drugs. The taking of licit and illicit drugs can interfere with the enzyme systems of the white blood cells and cause them to be less able to destroy germs. Germs give a strong chemical attraction to healthy white blood cells. Alcohol is injurious to white blood cells, reducing their activity. It is proverbial that people who drink alcohol are more susceptible to infectious illnesses. Alexander the Great met his early death by pneumonia after a bout of drinking. Tobacco takes its place with drugs and alcohol in damaging white blood cells. Smoking causes the phagocytic index (the eating ability) of the cell to decrease, especially in the lungs.

Food that is rich with oils will act the same as sugar does to inhibit the activity and chemical responsiveness of white blood cells. As oil intake increases, the white blood cells are less able to defend us. Milk is high in fat and tends to promote mucus production and constipation.

Not only can materials and foods taken in from outside the body interfere with the phagocytic activity of white blood cells, but toxins produced by the body can affect them as well. Toxic chemicals produced in the digestive tract because of too little exercise, too rich or too much food, can inhibit the movement, the number, and the chemical response of white blood cells. In order to have active and healthy white blood cells, one must have a healthy stomach and colon. This means eating on a proper schedule and chewing well, not eating too many foods at one meal, waiting five or more hours between meals, using no between meals snacks, and not washing one's food down with beverages. These measures will bring good health to the digestive tract against colds.

Antibiotics do not touch the viruses of colds, and should not be used. Nose drops tend to cause rebound congestion, and, in the long run, produce more discomfort than they relieve. Aspirin irritates the stomach, and causes viruses to be shed more abundantly in the nasal secretion and mouth droplets, making the patient more infectious to those around him. Cough medicines tend to upset the gastrointestinal tract, or to cause retention of secretions, similarly doing more harm than good. Antihistamines, which are used to dry up the secretions, also cause a rebound or over secretion, having initially caused dryness of the mouth and palms, sleepiness, dizziness, and light sensitive eyes. Only simple remedies should be used for a cold.

The treatment of a cold should begin within 15 minutes of the very first symptom. Wherever you are, you can always do a deep breathing exercise, regardless of circumstances. A deep breathing exercise is simply done and often stops a cold dead in its tracks! Take a deep breath to the fullest extent of one's ability, then slowly exhale over 10-20 seconds, pushing out the breath as far as possible to completely empty the lungs; then begin the cycle over again. Those nearby need not know that you are exercising. After 40-50 breaths of this kind, the tissues of the nose, throat, and chest that are being attacked by viruses will be refreshed; new blood will have been brought in by the exercise, and toxic materials and viruses washed away. In addition to the deep breathing exercises, one should try to walk several miles at the first sign of a cold. If, at the onset of symptoms you are able to walk four to six miles or more, you have the best conditions for throwing off the cold.

Decrease all food intake, and use no sugar or oil. It is better not to have a complete food fast, but you should use no complex dishes, like casseroles and complicated salads. Keep both the menus and the individual dishes ultra-simple. It is better to eat sparingly of one or two dishes with whole wheat bread, than to have a more complex dietary.

An enema cleanses the bowel, taking away products of fermentation mentioned earlier. An enema may be of plain hot water, one quart taken and held for a few minutes before being expelled. If the colon is not entirely clean after one enema, a second may be taken. The colon should be emptied completely after each enema.

The body temperature should be carefully regulated, not too hot, and not too cold. There should be no patch of chilled skin anywhere on the body when one is fighting a cold, especially the feet, hands, and back of the neck. This point is very important, as viruses can more readily attack the nose and throat if any part of the body is chilled.

Alternating hot and cold baths will stimulate the white blood cells in the bloodstream. A healthy person can sit in a hot tub for 15-20 minutes, followed by a 30 second cold shower and a brisk rubdown with a coarse towel. Keep a cold washcloth wrung from ice water on the forehead to keep the head cool during the last half of the treatment. Lie in bed 30 minutes to allow the treatment to "react." Repeat daily until well; this treatment can keep you on your feet and keep you from spreading the viruses.

Eat meals on a regular schedule. Use no juices. They are high in sugars, which decrease the activity of the white blood cells. Orange juice has been shown to decrease the phagocytic activity of white blood cells.

Instead of cough syrup, use a large drink of water every time you cough. It is quite good cough medicine. The extra water loosens up the secretions, lubricates the surfaces and dilutes the toxins, reducing injury to the tissues. One can take a little honey into which has been stirred a small drop of eucalyptus oil or mint tea leaves. A small drop taken on the tongue as a cough syrup is quite a good remedy. Don't forget to drink plenty of water between meals, 6-8 glasses daily.

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