Cure for the Common Cold

The common cold is in many ways mysterious.  One of the milder infections of the upper respiratory tract, the cure for this viral disease has eluded medical science for decades.  Given its prevalence and its somewhat innocuous-seeming set of symptoms, it is at first glance rather boggling to consider the fact that no cure has yet been found to cure such a simple illness.

It is, of course commonly said that “there’s no cure for the common cold.”  But why is this the case?  The answer is relatively simple once the viral cause of the common cold is understood.  This is because the cold, unlike many other commonly known illnesses, is not actually a single medical condition.  Colds can be caused by many types of viruses, commonly one of the rhinoviruses.  In all, over 200 different kinds of viruses have been implicated as causes of the common cold.

In short, you can’t cure the cold because the cold is not a single illness.  Rather, it is a collection of different illnesses that all have similar symptoms, rendering it difficult to differentiate between causes when a patient turns up with cold-like symptoms.  Consequently, creating a single cure for the cold would be like creating a single cure for all viruses:  probably impossible. 

It would, in theory, perhaps be possible to cure the individual virus that a patient presents with when they have a cold.  However, this is often untenable simply because of the mild symptoms and short duration that colds exhibit.  The illness is not pressingly serious, and at any rate, by the time the tests necessary to determine what virus has been contracted come back, the patient will almost certainly be on the mend anyway.  It is far more economical to treat the cold’s symptoms and allow the body to fight the infection off by itself, and this is what physicians do for patients presenting with cold symptoms.

As an endnote, it is interesting to observe that some broad-spectrum anti-virals have shown some promise for treating generic cold symptoms.  However, these treatments are yet to prove effective in the day-to-day clinical environment.  Additionally, home remedies such as honey, Vitamin C, and nasal irrigation have proven almost perfectly useless in fighting off a cold when controlling for the placebo effect. 

In short, colds suck.  You can’t effectively fix them, and when one is contracted, it simply has to be lived through.