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First aid for colds: alleviate symptoms with the right remedies
The first rays of sun appear, the temperatures are rising, and yet many people in Bremen are suffering from a cold. The name suggests that it is cold in particular that favors the disease - however, there is no direct scientific connection. Triggers are viruses that are transmitted by droplet infection and hit a weakened immune system. These can cause a sore throat, a runny nose, an irritation to cough, fatigue and sometimes high temperature or fever. The Bremen Chamber of Pharmacists explains how an infection can be prevented and what remedies can provide relief if you get caught.
“The number of colds is increasing because the current weather is very demanding on the immune system: Due to the fluctuating temperatures, the body has to work harder to maintain the optimal body temperature. This costs strength, which in turn is lacking in the defense against infections, ”said Sebastian Köhler, board member of the Bremen Chamber of Pharmacists. "In addition, heating air strains the mucous membranes, which are therefore more susceptible to pathogens," adds Köhler.
The infection is usually caused by droplet infection: when talking, coughing or sneezing, tiny droplets of saliva with pathogens enter the air and are inhaled by other people. Viruses can also be transmitted to the hands from doorknobs or tram handles. If the person touches his mouth, nose or eyes, the pathogens enter the body through the mucous membranes. In total there are more than 200 such cold viruses that are constantly changing their shape.
Duration of the illness
As the saying goes, the cold comes for three days, stays for three days and goes for three days. The disease is very individual. To put it simply, if there are no complications, the symptoms usually improve after three to seven days and have completely subsided after two weeks. "If the symptoms do not improve after a week or if they are very severe, an examination by a doctor is advisable in order to rule out or possibly treat additional infections such as tonsillitis, middle ear or pneumonia," says Köhler. Strong, long-lasting symptoms can also be serious flu, which sometimes lasts for weeks and in which - unlike a cold - fever usually occurs above 38.5 ° C and higher, often accompanied by particularly pronounced exhaustion and head - and body aches.
That provides relief
A cold usually heals itself, but various medications and home remedies can alleviate the symptoms. In general, sick people should rest and sleep so that the immune system can concentrate on fighting the virus. The body also needs a lot of fluid: an adult should drink about two liters a day to adequately moisturize the mucous membranes. “However, warm beer doesn't help, that's a myth. Alcohol weakens the body's defenses and irritates the mucous membranes, which is counterproductive. Instead, I recommend warm milk with honey - this relieves sore throat and difficulty swallowing. Special cold tea is just as beneficial for the mucous membranes, ”explains Köhler.
If you have a cold, decongestant nasal drops - for example with the active ingredients xylometazoline or oxymetazoline - can be useful for a short time. Colds should, however, use preparations without the preservative benzalkonium chloride, as these are more tolerable to the nose. It should be noted that nasal spray or drops are used a maximum of once or twice a day and for a total of no longer than seven days. Otherwise, there may be a dependency. If the nose is sore, ointments with the calming active ingredient dexpanthenol can help to heal.
To relieve the cough and moisturize the airways, it is advisable to inhale two or three times a day with sage, thyme or essential oils such as eucalyptus. “However, infants and young children should not inhale as they could scald themselves. In addition, no menthol medication should be used on them, as this can lead to respiratory arrest, ”warns Köhler. In addition, herbal expectorants, for example with eucalyptus or ivy extract, or chemical ones with potassium iodide, ambroxol or N-acetylcysteine promote mucus drainage.
Sufferers of a sore throat, for example, help lozenges with Icelandic moss or sage. These form a protective film on the mucous membrane that protects against irritation. In addition, painkillers with lidocaine or benzocaine are available that numb locally.
Fever is a natural defense process in the body that stimulates the immune system to fight pathogens. Therefore, it should not always be lowered immediately. “From a body temperature of 38.5 ° C, antipyretic measures can be taken to protect the circulation. Paracetamol and ibuprofen have proven themselves here, which also work for headaches and body aches, ”advises Köhler. Calf wraps can also help lower your fever. However, these should only be used if the patient is not freezing and the circulation is stable.
Mostly completely pointless, however: antibiotics. These act against bacteria and not against the cold-causing viruses. Even flu and cold remedies, so-called combination products, often do not have the desired effect. “There is no drug that can cure a flu-like infection in no time. Nevertheless, a variety of remedies and measures can alleviate the symptoms and promote healing. An experienced local pharmacist can provide individual and detailed advice here, ”says Köhler from the Bremen Chamber of Pharmacists. "Especially with children, it is important to use medication appropriate for children and to observe the age-appropriate dosage. Pregnant women should also always consult a doctor or pharmacist for advice before taking medication or herbal products, ”continues Köhler.
During the cold season, it is important to avoid close contact with colds and gatherings of people in closed rooms as far as possible and to pay careful, frequent hand washing. “If you are healthy, you can strengthen your immune system by going to the sauna, taking alternate showers, exercising and taking walks in the fresh air. A balanced and vitamin-rich diet also helps to prevent a cold. Vitamin C in particular, which is found in citrus fruits, among other things, is said to be good for the immune system, ”recommends Köhler.