Vip Virus: A Nasty Cold, That Is

If you are felled by executive flu - a nasty winter cold, that is - be extra cautious about what you buy to treat it. And read labels carefully. With today's array of non-prescription cold preparations - pills, drops, lozenges, cough syrups, and all the rest - it's tempting to take the doctoring into your own hands. But taking the TV ads too seriously can be dangerous.

If fact, it's a good idea to consult your doctor if you're running a fever - especially if a sore throat or chest pains go along. It's also a danger signal if a cold drags on for 10 days without improvement or hoarseness persists three or four days.

The reason for caution is that over-the-counter drugs are potent. To some people, they can also be hazardous. The key is your physical makeup and drug sensitivity, and these vary greatly - even in the same person. Even the dosage recommended on the label as safe can be harmless to one person, risky to another. Again, the "safe" dosage has so little effect on some people that they take too much - and risk severe reactions and side effects. These can result from, say, a seemingly innocuous six squirts instead of three from a nose spray. There's risk, too, in using cold preparations too long - for more than 48 or 72 hours. They're strictly for temporary use. Be especially wary in cases of chronic illness - hypertension, glaucoma, heart, thyroid, kidney, or circulatory trouble - or when under a doctor's medication for any complaint other than the cold. Ask his advice.

Another potential danger is that self-medication in some cases can mask a serious condition - and allow it to progress. For example, you may be treating a streptococcus infection as a "simple sore throat" - with dire results.

How do the cold preparations work? The nasal decongestants, for instance, contain both vasoconstrictors and antihistamines. Vasoconstrictors give relief against stuffiness by constricting swollen blood vessels. But repeated use can reverse the effect and cause more swelling instead. Vasoconstrictors also act as stimulants; so they can cause nervousness, insomnia, and sometimes with overdosing, heart palpitations and a rise in blood pressure. The antihistamines dry up a cold. But repeated doses can overdo it and even bring on allergies and skin eruptions. They can also make you drowsy. Even pain-killing aspirin can have side effects - stomach irritation, indigestion, or eventually ulcers. The aspirin substitutes containing phenacetin or acetaminophen relieve pain without irritating the stomach - but still, used judiciously, over-the-counter drugs can give welcome and safe relief to most people - especially if they believe the product will help. Doctors claim that faith in a remedy often helps it work - psychologically. But note that cold preparations relieve only the symptoms - not the cold itself, which can stem from one or more of 35 to 40 viruses. An effective cold vaccine is in the future and the wonder drugs, like penicillin and neomycin, have no impact on cold viruses. Your best attack on a cold is still plenty of rest - preferably in bed. Aspirin or a substitute help muscle aches and pains, and hot gargles soothe a raw throat, as well as troches that anesthetize and stimulate secretions. As for lozenges and troches containing antibiotics and sulfa, they are worthless for a cold - and doctors warn that they may prevent effective use of wonder drugs in a more serious illness by building up resistance or allergy.

For preventing colds, the best prescription seems to be adequate rest and enough moisture in the air. Mounting scientific evidence indicates that low humidity in heated rooms dries the nose and throat, makes them susceptible to infection. A home humidifier might be one answer.

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Hearing, And The Available Aids

What with seven million English people suffering a serious hearing handicap - and 10 million more persons with some hearing loss - the hearing aid business is booming. For you, as a buyer, the trick is to get an aid that suits your condition best - which means, among other things, buying for maximum efficiency, not just appearance. Two points to keep in mind at the outset:

Businessmen who work under heavy strain often are psychologically prone to subnormal hearing. Tensions aren't the root cause (heredity, infections, allergies, and arterial diseases are) - but given a physical cause, emotional stress can greatly magnify the condition.

A man who puts off getting professional help... see: Hearing, And The Available Aids