Jennifer Ackerman on the Mysteries of the Common Cold

Jennifer Ackerman on the Mysteries of the Common Cold

Both Salon and The New Yorker recently ran interviews with Jennifer Ackerman, the author of “Ah-Choo! The Uncommon LIfe of Your Common Cold”.  In the book, the author reveals not-so-well-known facts about everyone’s arch-nemesis, the common cold.

As Jennifer Ackerman tells it, there are more than 200 strains of the common cold, making it extremely difficult for doctors and researchers to find a cure for the cold. The common cold can’t be treated by antibiotics- the writer speculates that the reason doctors prescribe antibiotics at all is to leave their patients seeking treatment feeling not so empty-handed when they leave the doctor’s office.

Not everyone is equally as susceptible to catching a cold- teenagers have less immunity to colds than those in middle age as do those who are sleeping less than seven hours a night. A weirder statistic that Jennifer Ackerman alluded to in the Salon interview is that those who perceive themselves as having a lower socio-economic status are also more susceptible to colds.

Preventing a cold is not as simple as popping some Airborne before a flight; the only surefire way to eliminate the chance of getting a cold is to hide out inside. Small, helpful measures that can be taken include frequent hand-washing (a boon for compulsive hand-washers) and infrequent face-touching (a problem for many teenagers with pimples). Avoiding stress and quitting smoking are also extremely helpful in warding off the common cold.

While no one should exactly be jumping up and down for joy when they feel the first sniffle of a cold, there are a few hidden benefits:  the person infected with the cold can give their body a chance to rest and recuperate. Catching a cold can mean time away from chores, time away from work, and time away from life’s difficult decisions if the person has enough money to take the time off from work. Jennifer Ackerman also says that a cold may just possibly ward off the flu, but in her opinion, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that just yet.

In the New Yorker interview, Jennifer Ackerman gives recommendations for those who have a cold; the author suggests alternating Ibuprophen or a similar over-the-counter drug with Benadryl or its equivalent. According to her research, most over-the-counter remedies for the common cold actually exacerbate the problem.