Despite intensive scientific research conducted by the Medical Research Council’s Common Cold Unit over many years, a cure for this, the most common of all viral infections, has proved elusive. At one time it was hoped that the expensive antiviral compound ‘interferon’ might be of value. Besides being very expensive, it potential as a remedy was finally abandoned when it was found its side effects were the same or even worse than the cold itself – including tiredness, malaise and muscular aches and pains.
There are a host of remedies that, it is claimed, will prevent a cold developing, of which the most famous, promoted by the late Nobel prize-winner, Linus Pauling, is an extra large dose of vitamin C. This selection is, however, restricted to treatment of the main symptom – a stuffy nose.
Steam: Steam inhalation, as the cheapest and most effective of remedies, should be used much more frequently. It is much preferable to the decongestant medications procured at considerable cost from the local chemist. Boiling water is placed in a shallow pan into which a drop of menthol, or eucalyptus oil may be added, and a towel is placed over the head. After 15 minutes of steam inhalation the nostrils will be clear-at least for a while. Some people prefer to go to the bathroom, close the windows, place a towel against the door and sit on the side of the bath inhaling the steam from a really hot bath or shower.
Salt: Mr. P. J. Fenerty from Liverpool learned the salt remedy from his grandfather who was born in 1874. One heaped teaspoon of salt is dissolved in a bottle of water and placed in the hollow of the hand and snuffled up the nose. ‘It always works better than the proprietary remedies prescribed by the doctor/ comments Mr. Fenerty who also enclosed a letter from The Times pointing out that in 1919 during the height of the post-war flu epidemic: ‘The only people who escaped completely were those who had used salt water constantly.
Alcohol: Mrs. Mirren Coxon passed her pre-1914 childhood in Easter Ross in the north of Scotland where they suffer from a lot of colds. ‘My father took charge and stood over us while we swallowed a mug of hot toddy – whisky, honey and hot water. It cured the cold and had the added bonus of putting us off whisky for life.’
Chicken soup: Chicken soup is also known as Jewish penicillin because of a long-standing belief held by Jewish mothers that it relieves infections of the upper respiratory tract. Interestingly, the dietary instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai specifically permitted chicken and some believe the recipe for chicken soup was given to Moses on this occasion. The beneficial ingredient of the soup has recently been identified as a sulphur compound which increases the velocity of nasal secretions by almost a third thus promoting the elimination of the infective viral particles from the nose.
Vaseline: As the cold begins to resolve, the nostril openings may be inflamed and painful from the repeated trauma of nose blowing. Vaseline applied on a cotton wool bud is an effective remedy and saliva is also reputedly useful in preventing crusts and scabs forming around the nostrils.