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Q: Cold Medication Effect on Recovery Time ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Cold Medication Effect on Recovery Time
Category: Health > Medicine
Asked by: nighttrader-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 13 Oct 2004 17:30 PDT
Expires: 12 Nov 2004 16:30 PST
Question ID: 414490
Does taking over the counter cold drugs, such as Tylonol Cold or
NyQuil, extend normal recovery time?  Intuitively, since these
products supress symptoms, this would seem to inhibit natural recovery. 
Subject: Re: Cold Medication Effect on Recovery Time
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 13 Oct 2004 19:03 PDT
The interventionist tendencies of modern allopathic medicine are in
question on this issue. Treating mild cold symptoms may make the
patient more comfortable, but at the price of a lengthier recovery.
Obviously, high fevers and severe coughs need to be dealt with, but
recovery may be more rapid if minor aches, low-grade fevers, and runny
noses are allowed to take their natural course.

I've gathered some material that I hope will be of interest to you.
For reasons of copyright, I am posting only brief excerpts here; you
may want to read some of these articles in their entirety,
particularly the last linked article, "Thinking Out of the Box: The
Intriguing Field of Darwinian Medicine," which is quite

"Keep in mind that most acute conditions will work themselves out over
time. Assuming the basic foundations of health are in order,
interpretative medicine, herbal or otherwise, is not necessarily
indicated in every acute conditions. It's OK to have chills and aches
when you have the flu. Colds are supposed to make your nose runny.
Suppressing symptoms can prolong the illness, making you feel somewhat
better in the short term, but extending your downtime when looked at
in hindsight."

A Simpler Way: Acute vs Chronic 

"Conventional Western medicine often seeks a cure by administering
large doses of suppressant drugs. This can be a harmful approach for
three reasons.

1. Suppressing symptoms can hamper the body's ability to cure itself. 
2. The use of some drugs can have serious side effects. 
3. This can rob the body of the opportunity to develop its own natural immunity."

Wellness Connections: Complementary Therapies 


These products may provide temporary relief, but they are not really
curing the infection. In fact, suppressing symptoms may actually
prolong your illness because you?re interfering with your body?s
methods for healing itself. For instance, the achiness associated with
the flu comes from the immune system?s release of interferon, a potent
virus-fighter; a runny nose is the body?s way of eliminating dead
viruses. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and perhaps acetaminophen
(Tylenol) may actually diminish immune response, and OTC cold remedies
dry up mucous membranes so the body can?t flush out the debris. A
common medicine called guaefenesin (found in plain Robitussin syrup)
actually thins the mucus and facilitates drainage from the sinuses and
nasal passages, and helps the bronchial tubes either cough up the
phlegm or absorb it.

Cold and flu symptoms are usually a good sign - an indication that
your body is already fighting the infection."

Tri-Health: Colds, Flu's, and Other Respiratory Infections

"Each of the resulting symptoms we experience has a healing or
detoxifying function. Sneezing, for example, keeps the virus up and
out of the lungs, while the increase in mucous secretions carries
immunoglobulins to wash out toxins. That's why holistic care
practitioners counsel people against cold and flu medicines that work
by suppressing symptoms, such as decongestants, cough syrups, and
antipyretics (acetaminophen). While alleviating temporary discomfort,
they inevitably prolong the illness by tampering with the body's
process of self-healing."

Yoga Journal: Cold Comfort

"Many medications 'cure' the fever associated with colds and 'flu but
research suggests they do more harm than good. In The Sickening Mind,
Paul Martin writes how 'experiments have shown that in certain
circumstances suppressing a fever can actually impede recovery from
infection'. He cites a study which showed that chickenpox patients who
took paracetamol took on average a day longer to recover than those
left to their own devices.

In the case of a common cold, a study at the University of Adelaide
found that 'far from bringing relief, aspirin and paracetamol
[acetaminophen] made clinical symptoms worse and lowered the
volunteers' antibody responses to infection; those subjects who took
an inert placebo fared better.'

So if you are brought low by a cold or 'flu this winter, the best
advice is stay low."

The Witness Group: When it all gets atchoo much

"Over-the-counter decongestants containing pseudoephedrine can help
dry and clear nasal passages, but only temporarily. Decongestant nasal
sprays can help, too -- but watch out! Decongestants used for more
than five days may cause a 'rebound' effect. This means more mucus and
worse congestion."

WebMD Encyclopedia: Common Cold Treatment

"Many people almost instinctively reach for a bottle of aspirin or
acetaminophen when they get a cold. There is probably little harm in
doing so, but it is not clear how much benefit there is, and a new
research report suggests that there could also be some drawbacks.

Neil M. H. Graham and his colleagues at the University of Adelaide in
South Australia found that student volunteers infected with a cold
virus actually experienced more nasal swelling and stuffiness if they
took aspirin or acetaminophen than if they took a look-alike placebo.

In addition, subjects taking the active drugs instead of a placebo
developed a lower level of antibodies to the infecting virus. These
findings suggest that at least one symptoms might be made worse and
that common painkillers may also interfere somewhat with the immune
response to a cold."

Harvard Health Letter: Take two placebos...

"According to evolutionary biologist Paul Sherman, traditional
medicine usually first asks the question how: how do our bodies
produce this gelatinous liquid that often leaves us with soiled
shirtsleeves, and then immediately looks for a quick fix for the
symptom. SudafedŽ may dry up the mucus membranes that produce runny
noses, but can it help people get better? Maybe.

A Darwinian medicine practitioner focuses on the question of whether a
runny nose is an evolutionary, evolved-defense mechanism that is in
fact protecting the body from acquiring a more serious viral or
bacterial infection. Choosing to take SudafedŽ may actually hinder the
body from fighting minor infection, and instead may leave the body
susceptible to catching a more serious disease such as the flu...

In Nesse and Williams' book Why We Get Sick: The New Science of
Darwinian Medicine, the authors state that 'fever is an adaptation
shaped by natural selection specifically to fight infection,' rather
than a defect. Both scientists emphasize that this difference is
crucial. A fever's benefits are two-fold: increased body temperature
makes the body inhospitable for bacteria to survive and reproduce
effectively, yet at same time, increases the rate of bodily functions
which are responsible for combating infectious diseases (i.e. white
cell production). Suppressing a fever, or any other evolutionary
adaptation that may have been naturally selected as a defense against
infection (i.e. coughs, diarrhea, runny noses, morning sickness, or
pain from tissue or muscle damage), may prevent the human body from
effectively combating the pathogen or condition. What could have been
a two-day fever or cold may turn into one that lasts a week; or the
worse case scenario, may actually permit a life-threatening pathogen
to invade an already weakened immune system, the authors said."

Journal of Young Investigators: Thinking Out of the Box: The
Intriguing Field of Darwinian Medicine

Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: "cold" + "suppression of symptoms"

Google Web Search: "cold" + "suppressing symptoms"

I hope this is helpful. If anything is unclear or incomplete, or if a
link doesn't function, please request clarification; I'll be glad to
offer further assistance before you rate my answer.

Best regards,
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