Every year in the busy, but exciting run up to Christmas, I wake and something unchristmassy starts to happen. I sniff, I sneeze and I carry on sneezing until my eyes are running and my nose is sore and I know that the day is going to be a miserable one.
For the umpteenth time, I’ve caught a cold like millions of my fellow Britons. Cold viruses and their bacterial cousins (that cause chest infections) love our temperate but constantly changing climate, longer colder winters would slow them down, a warmer climate would kill them but Britain is just right.
The body does it best to expel the virus by sneezing and coughing and moves onto heating itself to an inhospitable temperature. Finally, we build antibodies and hopefully defeat the virus before it opens the doors to more serious bugs.
We have always lived with such irritations but in the last century, the British Government was motivated to try and do something about it.
During the Second World War, the British economy was centrally controlled to ensure that population was fed and the fighting could continue. The government kept a close eye on all statistics and noticed that a great many days work were lost through illness because of the common cold.
A health campaign was therefore started with the famous slogan, “Coughs and Sneezes spread Diseases, catch them with a handkerchief,” and people were encouraged to wash their hands and so on.
At the end of the war, antibiotic use had spread to combat bacterial infections and the government felt optimistic that it could tackle the humble common cold.
It set up the famous Common Cold Research Unit on the edge of Salisbury Plain and for forty-four years volunteers took a free `holiday’ where they would be looked after and infected with the virus.
A lot of people really enjoyed their quarantined time there and somehow a couple even met and later married. There is some lovely footage of the unit on YouTube. .
There was some research success but, alas, the common cold remained triumphant.
The best treatment I have found is to go to bed. Pamper yourself with lemon and honey dissolved in hot water and treat yourself to a seasonal black and white film, like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and buy some chocolates because you’ve suffered enough and you deserve it.