Clinical Assistant Professor, Cooperative Pharmacy Program, University of Texas at EI Paso/Ut-Austin
Since most colds are self-limiting, symptoms will usually resolve on their own in seven to ten days. For the majority of patients, treatment is symptomatic and targeted at the most bothersome symptoms. Specific nonprescription therapy may relieve cold symptoms but should be used with caution, especially in at-risk patient populations. Patients should monitor for worsening symptoms, and progression of complications. Medical referral is appropriate for patients with symptoms suggestive of nonallergic rhinitis, otitis media, sinusitis, or lower respiratory tract problems such as pneumonia, asthma, or bronchitis. Prevention is the main stay. Good hand hygiene, including frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers, is still the most effective intervention to prevent the common cold. Commonly used organic acids have virucidal activity for rhinoviruses that persists for hours after application, which has important implications for the prevention of these infections. This simple and safe intervention seems to be the most logical tool we have at this time to prevent the common cold.