Finding a cure for the common cold is one of those goals often cited as the pinnacle of medical research and a guarantee of vast wealth for the discoverer, Independent Newspapers report.
"It is probably the most frequent symptomatic infection in humans," says Dr Michael Baker, New Zealand's Otago University professor who specialises in infectious diseases. It's been with us forever, two to five times a year for adults and about twice as often in children, still it remains a mystery, giving rise to a plethora of "treatments" but no cures.
"The medical consensus at present," Baker says, "is that the common cold is not curable so none of the commonly used treatments will make any difference to the severity or duration of the illness." He adds that more than 200 viruses have been implicated as being the cause of the common cold. To complicate things further, the cold is a syndrome with a collection of features, rather than a specific disease with a single cause. "Unfortunately, it is not possible to vaccinate against a cold because of the large number of different viruses that cause it." In the absence of a cure or vaccine, the best we can do is treat the symptoms.
Baker recommends drinking plenty of fluids and resting at home. Over-the-counter products can tackle some of the unpleasant symptoms but, he adds, patients who are particularly ill should see a doctor as upper respiratory tract infections can be serious. According to Independent Newspapers, the advice on preventing transmission is to cover coughs and sneezes (with a tissue or sleeve rather than the hand), wash and dry hands regularly and stay away from work or school when infected.
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