THE COMMON COLD:
YOUR BODY’S OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW ITS STRENGTH
By Todd A. Hoover, MD, DHt
The most common reason people see their doctor is for the Common Cold, also known as an Upper Respiratory Infection or URI. Colds are caused by over 200 different viruses including rhinoviruses, adenoviruses and parainfluenza viruses to name a few. Symptoms will vary based on the individual who develops the cold and the type of virus that is causing the infection. In general, children can average as many as 10 colds per year, while adults may have 3 per year. Despite hundreds of years of attempts, no single treatment has been totally effective at “curing” the Common Cold.
Many people each year are treated with antibiotics for colds. Not only does this practice not help the person, but it can lead to problems for the individual and also the society in general. Antibiotic overuse commonly disrupts the normal bacterial balance within the body, and can lead to disabling diarrhea and other bowel disturbances. Additionally, antibiotics are common causes of drug allergic reactions; these can range from troublesome rashes to airway swelling and death. But the most concerning problem from antibiotic overuse is the accelerated evolution of the disease-causing bacteria on the planet. Since bacteria can multiply rapidly, every generation has the opportunity to change and overcome the lethal stress of the antibiotic. News abounds of how these new “super bacteria” have developed and are now totally resistant to most or all available western drugs. By focusing on removing the stress-causing agent from the body, western medicine has allowed the creation of even stronger foes.
Homeopathy however, works through the stimulus of the person to overcome the stress. The fact that adults generally have fewer colds than children illustrates clearly that our immune systems have the ability to adapt and become more powerful. Homeopathy provides a powerful stimulus to increase our resistance to harmful bacteria and viruses.
Colds frequently begin the same as most infectious diseases. A generalized body response to the presence of foreign viruses will be produced. This “Prodrome” may include fever, chills and sweats to help fight the infection. Children frequently develop a powerful response to the infection with high fevers and shaking chills. Most times this will lead to a rapid resolution of the illness without many other symptoms. But occasionally these severe symptoms will persist and progress into a more serious illness such as pneumonia or meningitis. When the body is unable to fight off the infection easily, even with the help of homeopathy, professional help should be obtained. Since the prodrome is a nonspecific, generalized response to the virus, generally only several symptom pictures will emerge.
Aconitum napellus is commonly used for colds that come on with a bang. Sudden onset of chills that can literally cause shaking is the hallmark. Chills come from being exposed to the cold and are occur with perspiration. Frequently these chills are associated with considerable restlessness, and the overall sense of impending illness. You know you are going to get sick, and it seems that there will be no escape.
Belladonna is also used for the rapid onset of a cold, but here the main symptom seen is this case is high fever. The fever may be continuous. It is as though all the blood has filled the head making it hot and throbbing, while the extremities remain cool. The burning heat can produce a slight confusion in some people, and considerable irritability in others.
Ferrum phosphoricum is frequently used during prodromes that produce a fever, but little else. The fever may be high, but it is more likely to be associated with paleness and weakness compared with the intensity seen during a Belladonna type prodrome. After the initial prodrome, the virus progresses to affect your respiratory tract. Common symptoms of colds at this stage include congestion, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, ear pain, headache, eye discharge, sores in the mouth, and cough. Your body produces these symptoms to help eliminate the infection. Mucus forms both a barrier to your respiratory tract and an effective vehicle to trap viruses and expel them from the body. By correctly determining what your body is doing to fight off the virus, you can choose a homeopathic remedy that may help the process.
Pulsatilla pratensis is one of the most frequently used remedies for colds after the prodrome. The hallmark for this remedy is profuse, bland discharges that are frequently yellowish white in color. The discharges may come from the eye with crusting in the morning, from the ear, or most commonly from the nose. The person is usually not far from the box of tissues. Sometimes the color of the mucus seems to change from white to yellow to green. These people feel worse in stuffy rooms and better when they have someone to talk to about their suffering.
Mercurius vivus is also used when there is a copious discharge of mucus from the nose during a cold. But with Mercurius vivus, the discharge tends to be more yellow green and foul. It seems more infected. The mouth feels foul and may taste of metal. Sweating is common, but there is no relief afterwards. The person tends to be sensitive to becoming too cold at times, and too warm at others. These colds frequently begin with sore throat, and may progress to include sinus headaches.
Arsenicum album is useful for colds where the nasal discharge is irritating and has a burning quality in the nose. High fever can be present, but the chills are generally the stronger feature. Usually there is a strong thirst for cold drinks, despite their chilliness. Sore throat is also commonly described as burning in nature. Restlessness and anxiety are also commonly seen with this type of cold.
Euphrasia officinalis is indicated when there is profuse nasal discharge associated with considerable irritation of the eyes. The lids and conjunctiva may be red, and there tends to be tearing rather than a mucus discharge from the eyes.
Bryonia alba is typically chosen for colds that have little or no nasal discharge. Here, we see a dry, irritating cough from the throat. These people seem to have dried out from their fever. The nose and eyes may be dry, and they have a great thirst for large quantities of liquids. Because of the dryness, whenever the person moves or talks, the cough returns. They tend to be irritable and prefer to be left alone during the illness.
Most colds can be treated easily with homeopathy. If you are treated chronically by a professional homeopath, and the symptoms of the cold resemble the symptoms that you always seem to get, the correct remedy choice is probably a repetition of your chronic, constitutional remedy at a potency selected by your provider. If on the other hand, either the symptoms do not resemble your chronic natural response to stress, or you are not being treated chronically, an acute remedy could be used.
Over time, I have noted clear patterns in the types of colds that individuals seem to develop. Generally, children will have intense prodromes with high fevers and occasionally chills, while adults tend to have colds that come on more gradually without much fever. While children may be completely immobilized or asleep for a short while during a high fever, they tend to quickly rebound. I cannot count the number of times that parents have called to say their child has 103° fever, but is running around playing. Adults on the other hand seem to genuinely suffer during their colds. They tend to feel exhausted, have symptoms that gradually progress and then hang on for a week or so.
The question I would ask is “which state is the most healthy?” Is it better to have your body intensely respond to a viral attack, and then throw the marauders out completely? Or is it better to not have too much of a response, but have a more chronic, low level or recurrent type problem? I believe the ability to develop a hot reaction to this type of viral infection, and then quickly return to balance reflects a healthy vital force. We will never, (nor do I think would we desire), live in a stress free world. Common cold viruses represent just one of the many stresses in this life. Cultivating our body’s ability to adapt to these stresses and maintain balance is the path to true health.
Previously Published: Homeopathy Today
Additional information on Homeopathic Medicine and Optimal Wellness available from Todd A. Hoover, MD, DHt 610 667-2138