Stop a Cold in Just 12 Hours
By Sari Harrar
Before your sniffles morph into a nasty sinus, chest, or ear infection, here's how to fight back
Mugs of tea, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a truckload of tissues won't get you through every case of the sniffles. Too often, the common cold turns into something more serious, zeroing in on your personal weak point to become a sinus infection, a sore throat, a nonstop cough, an attack of bronchitis, or an ear infection. And if you're prone to a particular complication — thanks, perhaps, to an anatomical quirk (such as sinus obstructions), an underlying medical problem (early asthma, for example), or a history of a particular illness (childhood ear infections) — your odds of getting sicker, faster, can skyrocket.
But complications aren't inevitable, new research shows. "With the right strategies, you can cut your risk significantly," says Gailen D. Marshall, Ph.D., M.D., director of the division of clinical immunology and allergy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
The trick: Act quickly. "The problem isn't the virus replicating in your respiratory tract. The congestion and thick, trapped mucus that lead to complications are caused by the immune system's response to the infection," says pioneering cold researcher Jack M. Gwaltney, M.D., professor emeritus in the department of internal medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "It all begins within 10 to 12 hours after infection starts. You should take action the minute you feel the first symptoms of a cold — the scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing."
Find out what to do if you are prone to...