An approach to the Common Cold

This is the season when people get sick with the common cold. It's our pleasure to share with you some advice about preventing and treating it for adolescents and adults!

What prevents the common cold?

  • The best evidence is for hand washing, exercise and daily zinc (however, zinc can cause nausea, so we don’t recommend it)
  • There maybe a possible benefit for probiotics, but it is not definitive (L. casei or L. rhamnosus)
  • There is no proven benefit to ginseng (Cold FX), echinacea, or vitamin D
  • Vitamin C may be beneficial in marathon runners and those in extreme climates

How should I treat my symptoms?

  • Remember that the symptoms of common cold will usually resolve without any treatment - Most over the counter treatments don’t actually give any benefit, so save your money!
  • If you really want to treat it, then treat the specific symptoms, including runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, aches, sore throat, or fever
  • Always ask the pharmacist for generic products when possible, rather than paying top dollar for brand name products on the shelf

Sore throat?

  • Most sore throats are caused by a virus, and antibiotics won’t help at all
  • Viral sore throats are best treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, salt water gargles, honey, and lozenges; patients with viral sore throats don’t need to see a doctor
  • Strep throat is caused by bacteria (should get antibiotic). Patients usually have some combination of: fever, tender neck lymph nodes, absence of cough, and pus on the tonsils

Runny nose or nasal congestion?

  • Unless it lasts more than a few weeks, or you have a specific concern, you don't need to see a doctor
  • A combination of an oral antihistamine and a decongestant can help, but we don't generally recommend avoiding them as the symptoms will usually resolve on their own! Oral antihistamines like chlorpheniramine can cause dry mouth and sedation and the the newer antihistamines (Claritin, Aerius, Allegra, Reactine) don’t work for cold symptoms, they only help with allergies
  • Decongestant: If you don't have a contraindication, you can use oral pseudoephedrine but personally we would strongly advise against using a decongestant
  • Don’t use the decongestant for more than 3 days
  • Don’t use the decongestant if you have heart disease, stroke or issues with blood pressure – It puts blood pressure up!
  • Consider nasal irrigation with a salt water solution like Neil Med


(If you have any of fever, significant sputum, night sweats or shortness of breath, you should be evaluated for possible pneumonia. A cough that doesn't go away should also be seen.)

  • Humidified air can be beneficial
  • Honey taken at bed time is effective (not for children under 12 months of age)
  • No proven benefit to vitamin C, intranasal zinc, ginseng, Echinacea or codeine - Guaifenesin is an “expectorant”, but has not shown to provide benefit

Do you have a history of allergies?

  • The allergies may be contributing and using a nasal steroid may help

Do you think you may have a sinus infection?

  • Antibiotics are never prescribed earlier than 7 days unless you are having severe pain, high fever, vision changes, signs of meningitis, or visible facial swelling
  • In the first 7 days, we recommend treating with a sinus rinse, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain/aches
  • After 7 days, first line treatment will likely be nasal steroids for 72 hours - If no improvement after 72 hours, we may consider using antibiotics 

Adapted from Dr Mario Ella


Top 3 Tips for Healthy Living in 2016

by David M. Kaplan MD, MSc, CCFP

TIP 1: Canadians aged 50 or over should get screened for colon cancer

Only about 30% of Canadians aged 50 to 79 years-old get screened for colon cancer. Colon cancer is cancer of the lower bowel; about 1 in 20 people will get this cancer sometimes during their life. About 40% of patients who get colorectal cancer will die from it. There are two methods of screening people at low-risk:

  • stool testing for blood every 1-2 years
  • colonoscopy every 10 years 

 For more information visit or call our office or your family doctor
Colon Cancer Information from the Mayo Clinic

TIP 2: Most Adult Canadians should take in about 1000 to 2000 international units (IU) of vitamin D every day – not specifically for disease prevention, but for normal body function. 

Vitamin D helps to strengthen your bones, may thwart different forms of cancer,  and may stave off multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders. We know it is a prohormone that helps improve muscle strength and immune function, reduces inflammation, and promotes the absorption of calcium from the bowel. It also helps maintain our blood levels of the calcium and phosphate, which we need for bone formation,  growth, and repair.A large study (2007) showed that patients taking 500 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily had a seven per cent lower risk of death compared with those given a placebo. One cup of fortified milk contains 100 IU of vitamin D. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends Canadians take 1000 international units (IU) a day during fall and winter months. For more information visit or call your healthcare provider.

Vitamin D Information from the Mayo Clinic

TIP 3: Women should have routine pap smears.

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in young women aged 25-39. Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a pap smear in 3 years. All women over age 21 who have been sexually active should have routine pap smears. Additionally, young women aged 9-25 can be vaccinated against the two most common strains of HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. These girls and young women can speak to their doctor confidentially about the vaccine. For more information visit or call your healthcare provider:

Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Canada: How to Turn an Embarrassing Moment Into a Positive Experience
Life after Puberty: My First Pelvic Exam