Common cold is the most common ailment in the world, for the children and the adults alike. Though not a very serious disease, it does make one uncomfortable for a few days. Children become cranky due to the discomfort caused by stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, mild fever, causing sleep disturbance and weakness. Children catch cold easily because their immune system is not strong enough to fight the cold virus.
Causes of common cold
Common cold is caused by a virus which is spread by infected people. When an infected person coughs or sneezes the saliva droplets containing the virus gets sprayed all around, in the air and on the objects lying around. When a healthy person breathes the infected air, he/she will get infected too. If a healthy person touches the objects which has germs from the sneeze, cough, hankerchief or hands of an infected person, he can catch cold. When we touch objects like chair or pen etc. which might have the germs from the saliva droplets, the germs pass to our hands. When we touch our nose or mouth the germs attack our respiratory system causing cold.
Cold is more common in cold weather, as the virus thrives in cold. Also, during season change, when the body is caught unaware by unpredictable weather. Sudden and frequent changes in temperature like coming out from a air conditioned, cool room to a hot exterior or vice-versa, is another cause of cold.
Children tend to catch cold frequently because their immune system is weaker and they come in contact with many children in school and playground. Social etiquettes like using a tissue or hankerchief to avoid spreading of germs, and washing ones hands frequently are still not developed in young kids. Kids touch their eyes, nose and mouth too often. As a result they easily catch the virus.
There is a saying that common cold goes away in a week if you take medicines, and if you don’t take any medicine it will take seven days to go. Still their isn’t any medicine which can claim to fight common cold. The medicines which are available only gives temporary relief. Mostly these medicines give relief from fever and often induce sleep which gives us a feeling of relaxation. Otherwise common cold goes only after completing its course in about a week. If it persists more than that without any relief, like prolonged breathing problems or cough, consult a medical doctor. Self medication should be avoided because most cold syrups for kids contain sleep inducing contents which can become addictive.
There are several herbs, readily available in our kitchen, which have been found to help in reducing the discomfort caused by cold. These herbs are basically hot in nature, which help to keep the body warm. Some of the common home remedies are-
• Honey-Honey has anti biotic properties and it also keeps the body warm. Honey soothes the throat too and reduces cough. Honey (half to one teaspoon) can be taken alone twice or thrice a day. It can also be taken in lemon juice, tea or milk.
• Garlic- The aroma of garlic is said to ease the mucus and clear the airway. Garlic too is warm and has disease fighting properties. It improves the bodies immune system.
• Ginger- Ginger helps cure cold by making the body warm
• Basil leaves- Basil leaves were commonly used in grandma remedies. Basil leaves are crushed and mixed with little crushed ginger and honey and given to kids to cure cold.
• Turmeric- Raw turmeric (root) eaten raw or mixed with hot milk gives relief from cough.
• Lots of fluid- Take lots of fluid in the form of water, juices, soups etc. Fluid loosens the mucus, thus easing stuffy nose and throat. Simplest remedy is drinking lots of water. It helps in throwing out the germs from the body.
• Steam inhalation-The warmth of steam helps to clear the nasal airway.
• Gargle- Gargling with lukewarm salt water helps clear the throat and ease pain.
Personal hygiene- Cold virus spread mostly by touching objects containing the invisible virus. Washing hands frequently helps to keep away the cold. Kids should be reminded again and again not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth unnecessarily, because germs attack our system through from hands to nose, eyes and mouth. Children should also be taught to use tissues and handkerchieves to avoid infecting others.
• Protect from cold –Keep the body sufficiently warm during cold weather.
• Avoid sudden change of temperature- Frequently moving in and out of an air conditioned room confuses the body. The body cannot adjust its temperature to sudden changes and becomes prey to the cold virus.
• Avoid very cold drinks and food- Allow food and drinks to come to room temperature before consuming. Drinking anything cold immediately after a hot bath, exercise or coming from somewhere very hot should be avoided.
• Take citrus fruits regularly- Citrus fruits contain lots of Vitamin C, which boosts our immune system. Fruit juices, lemon juice, fruits like orange are good sources of Vitamin C.
• Breathing exercises- Yoga breathing exercises improve the lung capacity. Regularly doing these exercises improves the lung capacity and strengthens the body’s immune system. Yoga exercises improve our breathing pattern and also balance the cold and warmth requirement of the body.
• Other exercises- Any form of regular exercise, walks, jogging etc. improve our lung capacity and overall immune system.
• Appropriate clothing- Keep the body covered according to the weather. During winters the chest, throat, ears, head and foot of children should be specially kept warm. Cover the child with warm clothes before coming out of a warm bath.
• Well ventilated rooms- Rooms should get sufficient sunlight and fresh air. Usually during winters we tend to keep our house fully shut. Lack of sunlight and fresh air helps the virus to stay alive and multiply.
Parents should maintain personal hygiene and wash hands frequently to keep away from cold, to keep the children from catching the germs. Kids too will learn from parents and protect themselves from cold as far as possible. Exercise together and take a healthy diet with lots of Vitamin C to boost the family’s immune system.