- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 28, 2001

So much for a flu shot. Feeling rather cocky, I walked out of my doctor's office in late October after being injected with a solution that would either ward off the flu virus or lessen its severity. Someone forget to tell me about the common cold.

After my 15-month-old son caught a nasty bug, I spent the next 14 days feeling like a mucous melon had been stuck permanently in my nostrils.

Several doctors from Virginia have banded together not to cure the common cold, but to enlighten sufferers like myself about its mysteries and treatments through a Web site that makes me sneeze just looking at it.

Common Cold

Site address: www.commoncold.org


Drs. Jack M. Gwaltney Jr., Frederick G. Hayden and Birgit Winther all members of the faculty at the University of Virginia School of Medicine developed the site, which is owned by Commoncold Inc., a corporation based in Charlottesville.

Creator quotable:

"We created the site to provide state-of-the-art information on the common cold," Dr. Gwaltney says. "Special attention was given to meeting a high scientific standard that would be of use to professionals and nonprofessionals alike. In this regard, all statements of fact are supported by references in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and full bibliographic information is provided."

Word from the Webwise:

Common Cold provides solace to those attempting to deal with the 100 different kinds of viruses infecting their bodies during any part of the year.

A black backdrop greets visitors to the opening page and highlights the enemy to so many sinus cavities, Rhinovirus 14. This ball-shaped fellow may look pretty, all dolled up in bright blues and pink, but he can take down a human in less than 10 hours once he attaches to the adenoid near the back of the throat.

The opening page also provides six sections "Understanding Colds," "Treatments," "Complications," "Prevention," "Children" and "Special Features" that offer concise information for the slightly scientific-minded individual.

Each section has text modules loaded with facts and diagrams. The information is supported through a diverse group of cited sources, more than 70 total, that range from the Journal of Infectious Diseases to the New England Journal of Medicine to the 1997 book "Viral Infection of Humans: Epidemiology and Control."

For example, a look at "Understanding Colds" reveals the anatomy of the nose and provides a CT scan of the sinuses plus a definition of the common cold and symptoms.

Another section, "Prevention," explains how viruses are spread, promotes common-sense approaches to reducing exposure, such as washing hands, and reveals that germicidal lotions do not reliably kill the rhinovirus.

One of the more bizarre sections, "Children," introduces visitors to the slightly animated characters Drippy, Stuffy and Sneezy. They give visitors tips and facts about immunity, anatomy and how to treat colds in children.

The strange, piglike characters do little to enhance the page, but I now know that young children should never be given aspirin because of the threat of Reye's syndrome and that newborns retain some of their mother's immunity from certain cold viruses.

Ease of use:

Even visitors with antiquated 28.8 modems will have no problem viewing the quick-loading and basically text-driven pages. No flashy bells and whistles are found here, just solid information and very animated graphics.

Common Cold eases the pain of navigation with a site map, search engine and always available side menu to roam the site. About the only sections sorely needed are a glossary of terms to help further explain some of the too-scientific jargon and maybe a primer defining the differences between a cold and influenza.

Don't miss:

My parents have spent a decade telling my wife not to go outside with a wet head because of the potential of getting chilled and getting a cold. A stop by the "Special Features" section and the "Myths of the Common Cold" area quickly dispels that notion and looks at eight other fallacies. Additionally, the section explains how cold treatments are tested and provides some tasty recipes to enjoy while feeling miserable.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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