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The Christmas Crud

Thursday, December 23, 2010 // Uncategorized

Never fails. This time every year my phone starts to ring off the hook with people who have cold symptoms. It’s not the flu, that usually starts a little later. It’s just a series of old fashioned, cold or rhinoviruses. Sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion and cough. Maybe a low grade fever.
Curable? No. We just treat the symptoms with pain relievers, decongestants and expectorants. Antibiotics are of no use unless a secondary infection develops. This usually 5-7 days into the cold when a certain worsening takes place. Fever develops or the patient develops facial pain with a nasty postnasal drainage.
People understandably want to be well during the holidays and want to do anything they can to shorten the duration.  There are a variety of alternative treatments which have been advocated over the years. One of these is echinacea or purple coneflower. The evidence that it is effective is scant. This is the latest article which deals with it’s minimal effectiveness.
Echinacea Does Not Significantly Affect Cold Duration or Severity
Echinacea does not significantly reduce cold severity or duration, although there are “trends … in the direction of benefit,” according to an NIH-supported study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Some 700 patients aged 12 to 80 with new-onset colds were randomized to receive open-label echinacea, blinded echinacea, placebo, or no pills for 5 days. Overall, self-reported cold duration was slightly improved — by about half a day — with echinacea than with placebo or no pills, but this difference did not achieve statistical significance. In addition, cold severity was slightly, but not significantly, improved with active treatment.
The researchers conclude: “The pharmacologic activity of echinacea probably has only a small beneficial effect in persons with the common cold. … Individual choices about whether to use echinacea … should be guided by personal health values and preferences, as well as by the limited evidence available.”
Annals of Internal Medicine

Save your money.  Don’t expect a quick fix. Wash your hands to avoid spreading it to everyone else and avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics.

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