This helps against a cold: you can already remove that onion next to your bed | Domestic


Sniffling, sneezing and blowing your nose. Due to the weather changes, colds are lurking. According to the RIVM, the season of respiratory infections has started. What helps against a stuffy nose? And which resources should you not use? General practitioner Tanya Tolido answers. “Antibiotics only help against bacteria”

“A cold involves inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and sinuses,” Tolido explains. “This causes complaints such as a stuffy nose, a runny nose, less smell, sneezing, coughing, a hoarse voice, sore throat, headache, earache and tinnitus.”

A cold is caused by a virus. “There are various viruses that can cause a cold,” says the doctor. “One of the best known is the rhinovirus and now also the coronavirus. A cold is one of the complaints associated with the coronavirus. A cold virus can be transmitted by touch. For example, if someone has a cold, coughs into their hand and then shakes your hand. But also through the air, by inhaling infected droplets.”

Steam with hot water

It is a myth that you will catch a cold if you go outside without a coat. “This could also have happened with a jacket,” says Tolido. “You catch a cold because you become infected with a cold virus, not because you walk outside without a coat. However, there are other factors that play a role and have to do with the cold. In winter you spend more time indoors and there is less ventilation, so there is a greater chance of contamination. Dry mucous membranes, which is often the case in winter, are also more sensitive to viruses and the immune system knows less well how to fight a cold virus when it is colder.”

Steaming with hot water thins the mucus, making it easier to get rid of and breathing better

Tanya Tolido, General Practitioner

Unfortunately, there are no magical remedies or advice to get rid of a cold. However, you can make the virus more bearable by alleviating the symptoms. “Your body really has to fight the virus itself,” Tolido explains. “Antibiotics only help against bacteria. In fact, it only causes side effects. What you can do is continue to blow your nose so that you can breathe freely through your nose. You can also steam. Steaming with hot water thins the mucus, making it easier to get rid of and breathing better. Do not put menthol in the hot water, because that can only irritate the respiratory tract more.” Dry cleaning is strictly discouraged by burn centers for (parents of) young children and teenagers due to the risk of burns.

Addicted to nasal spray

Nasal spray also only combats the symptoms and not the virus itself. Xylometazoline (Otrivin) temporarily shrinks the mucous membrane in the nose, making breathing through the nose easier. “But you can use this for a maximum of one week,” the doctor emphasizes. “If used for longer than a week, this can damage the mucous membrane and over time the mucous membrane will actually thicken. What we often see in practice is that people who use it for a long time become addicted to the nasal spray. The only time their nose opens is when they use the nasal spray.”


Smoking has a negative effect on the mucous membranes and can cause you to have complaints for longer

Tanya Tolido

You can already remove the onion next to your bed. “Well, that’s one of those grandma-knows-what tricks,” the doctor laughs. “It has not been scientifically proven that it helps. In this case I think: if it doesn’t help, it won’t hurt. When you cut an onion, your eyes start to water because of the substance synpropanethial-S-oxide. But I cannot imagine that this will provide relief for the respiratory tract.”

Increasing shortness of breath and wheezing

You cannot prevent a cold, but you can minimize the chance of a cold by living a healthy lifestyle. “Eat healthy and varied and make sure you get enough vitamins,” says Tolido. “Get enough exercise, go outside regularly (for vitamin D) and don’t smoke! Smoking has a detrimental effect on the mucous membranes and can cause you to continue to have complaints for longer.”

Going to the doctor is only necessary in extreme cases. “In case of increasing shortness of breath, wheezing or if the patient feels increasingly ill. This concerns high fever and, for example, it is no longer possible to walk to the toilet.”

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The article is in Dutch

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