Basic Virus Question

Help me understand why it’s so difficult to stop a cold virus. I am currently going through my third upper respiratory infection (aka chest cold) of the year and I’m really miserable. Why is it so hard to kill a virus once it’s invaded your system?

We’ve known about viruses for quite a while now, how they function and what they are made of, and you would think someone would have stumbled across some agent that stops viruses from taking over our cells and causing our defense mechanisms to over react to such a degree.

When I had Bell’s Palsy earlier this year they gave me an anti-viral medicine (I think it was Acyclovir) so there must be something out there that works.

Is each virus type really that different? We have flu vaccines why not a cold vaccine? There are “too many varients” doesn’t seem like a reasonable answer since they must all have something in common.

What’s the Straight Dope on viruses?


As I understand it there are quite a few rhinoviruses that affect the respiratory system. Reinfection is a major problem.
Preventing reinfection: Wash hands frequently, and after blowing nose, gently please, or shaking hands with others.
Discard tissues after one use. Do not reuse and reinfect!
Keep hands away from face/mouth/eyes.
Cleansing the sinuses with a saline solution is very helphul as it flushes out mucous with the dust, viruses, and the nasties.

Viruses mutate, so there are many many version of the cold out there, and once in your body, viruses play games with your immune system – sort of cat and mouse. Your body has to identify and react to the virus, and it does so rather well actually.

Sometimes, you need to look at your habits, and see how they position your immune system:

In good health? Under stress? Weight? Sleeping habits? Lifestlye? Eat right/balanced? Keep clean hands, etc?

As for your trouble, you might be experiencing secondary bacterial infections after battling some viral infections. As for drugs to battle viruses: I think this is a bit misleading: “curing the common cold”…there already IS A CURE, and your body has it!!! How fast do you think you could pop a pill and cure an illness!?!

The real issue is that people - for some reason - think that it’s reasonable to expect some pharmaceutical company to make a drug that can smack down an infection in 48 hours!!!

Think about it! You get sick for a couple of days and your immune system takes care of it. How the heck can popping a pill beat that? That is why the emphasis is actually on shortening or lessening the duration and severity, because the human body isn’t giving drugs much wiggle room to actually improve on the performance, since the immune system performance is quite outstanding.


Well that’s my question really. If it only lasted a few days I wouldn’t care about it, but these kinds of infections can last a few weeks, and while they aren’t life threatening they can certainly degrade your quality of life (and lead to nasty bacterial infections).

I don’t usually get a flu shot because I know that if I get the flu I will be sick as a dog for 2-3 days and then I’ll be fine. With a cold I have to suffer for weeks before I start to feel better.

I think you are a bit confused.

Flu = belief you will die, lasts for many days until you are fully recovered after weeks, often leads to secondary infections.
Cold: couple of days. Nuisance, stuffy nose/head, need some soup and a blankey.