January is a time of new beginnings, of getting off that couch and hitting the gym (at least for the first two weeks), and pledging to eat right.
It is also the time for breaking that pledge with an extra slice of chocolate cake.
It is the time of year when we tell ourselves that this year, we’ll do things better and nothing can stop us.
Then we catch the first cold of the season, and the wind gets knocked out of our sails.
Since starting university, I consider myself lucky not to have caught any truly horrible bugs going around, such as the swine flu in 2009. What I do seem to get, however, is practically every single cold that passes through the East Coast.
I always get it at the end of that particular outbreak, so while I have to suffer through everyone sneezing and sniffling for weeks, only to be glared at in an elevator because I have the nerve to be sporting a Rudolph red nose when everyone else is feeling fine.
The worst part? It’s not something I can just drug myself up and go on my way.
Short of knocking myself out or suppressing my gag reflex, most of the time you just have to buy stock in face tissues and let it run its course.
I am not alone in this. The common cold, known medically as a viral upper respiratory tract infection, is infamous for being the most frequent reoccurring illness in the world.
In Canada alone, we spend upwards to $300 million on prescription antibiotics and over-the-counter cold and flu treatments in order to just treat the symptoms, according to a 2011 Queen’s University report.
In addition, C-Health says that Canadian adults suffer through up to five colds a year.
A report from the Conference Board of Canada says that the common cold accounts for about 40 per cent of sick days, costing the economy roughly $16.6 billion dollars a year.
Despite all of this, the cold is still just the “common” cold, and is just a nuisance.
No need to worry, right? I mean, it’s just billions we’re talking about here, and hey, we’re Canadians. No little bother such as an itchy throat, cough or stuffed up nose is going to keep us down.
Note the sarcasm.
The fact is, you are going to catch a cold at some point in the next few months. When you do, you will suffer from nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat and bouts of coughing and/or sneezing.
You will be sick for anywhere from seven to 14 days, with the worst of it lasting up to five days.
You will pop cough drops like candy, take decongestants on the hour and be prepared for your ears to pop at random intervals.
There will be times that you look and feel like you have been run over, but since there is nothing out there that can cure you, you will do your best to mask your symptoms and power through the day.
It’s just a cold, after all.
But with the amount of nuisance we put up with the cold, why can’t there at least be a vaccine? Unlike the flu, which has about three strains going around each season, the common cold has 30 different strains.
Not to mentions there are about 200 viruses that cause the cold, making it hard to pinpoint what is going to be where, as well as finding something that will be effective against them all.
But there is hope. Work is being done on broad-spectrum antivirals, which target multiple strains of viruses, and that could prove effective against the cold.
One compound, Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer, or DRACO for short, is proving promising.
Unfortunately, it will be at least 10 years before we find out if it works on colds.
Until then, save your sick days. You are going to need them.