Chilling of the surface of the body favors the occurrence of colds, in which lowered bodily vitality allows the growth of certain germs always present upon the mucous membrane lining the cavities of the nose. Dust and irritating vapors also predispose to colds. Overwarm clothing makes a person susceptible to colds, while the daily use of cold baths is an effective preventive. There is no sufficient reason for dressing more warmly in a heated house in winter than one would dress in summer. It is, moreover, unwise to cover the chest more heavily than the rest of the body. Some one has wisely said: “The best place for a chest protector is on the soles of the feet.” The rule should always be to keep the feet dry and warm, and adapt the clothing to the surrounding temperature. Among the germs which cause colds in the head, that of pneumonia is the one commonly found in the discharge from the nose. When pneumonia is epidemic it is therefore wise to take extra precautions to avoid colds, and care for them when they occur.
The presence of chronic trouble in the throat and nose, such as described under Mouth Breathing, Adenoids, etc. (p. 60), is perhaps the most frequent cause of colds, because the natural resistance of the healthy mucous membrane to the attack of germs is diminished thereby, and the catarrhal secretions form a source of food for the germs to grow upon. It should also be kept in mind that cold in the head is the first sign of measles and of grippe . Colds are more common in the spring and fall.
Symptoms. Colds begin with chilliness and sneezing, and, if severe, there may be also headache, fever, and pain in the back and limbs, as in grippe . The nose at first feels dry, but soon becomes more or less stopped with secretion. The catarrh may extend from the back of the nose through the Eustachian tube to the ear, causing earache, noises in the ear, and deafness (see p. 41). This unfortunate result may be averted by proper spraying of the nose, and avoidance of blowing the nose violently.
Treatment. Treatment must be begun at the first suspicion of an attack to be of much service. The bowels should be opened with calomel or other cathartic; two fifths of a grain for an adult, half a grain for a child. Rest in bed for a day or two, after taking a hot bath and a glass of hot lemonade containing a tablespoonful or two of whisky, is the most valuable treatment. The Turkish bath is also very efficacious in cutting short colds, but involves great risk of increasing the trouble unless the patient can return home in a closed carriage directly from the bath. Of the numerous remedies which are commonly used to arrest colds in the first stages are two which possess special virtue; namely, quinine and Dover’s powder, given in single dose of ten grains of each for an adult. Both of these remedies may be taken, but while the Dover’s powder is most effective it is often necessary for the patient to remain in bed twelve to eighteen hours after taking it on account of nausea and faintness which would be produced if the patient were up and moving about. Rhinitis tablets should never be used. They are generally abused, and, indeed, some fatal cases are on record in which they caused death. Drugs are of little value except in the beginning of a cold, when they are given with the hope of cutting short an attack.
The local applications of remedies to the inflamed region is of service. At the onset of the cold, Seiler’s solution (conveniently made from tablets which are sold in the shops) or Dobell’s solution should be sprayed from an atomizer, into the nostrils, every half hour, and, when the discharge becomes thick and copious, this is to be discarded for a spray consisting of alboline (four ounces) and camphor and menthol (each thirty grains), used in the same manner as long as the cold lasts. Containing bottles should be stood in hot water, in order that all sprays for the nostrils may be used warm.
It is well to give babies a teaspoonful of castor oil and a warm bath, and keep them in bed. If there is fever with the cold, five drops of sweet spirit of niter may be given in a teaspoonful of sweetened water every two hours. Liquid vaseline, or the alboline mixture advised for adults, may be dropped into the nostrils with a medicine dropper more conveniently than applied by spray.