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JAMA 100 Years Ago
November 20, 2002


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2002;288(19):2482. doi:10.1001/jama.288.19.2482

The word cold is probably the most used and the least understood word in modern medical practice. At this season of the year there is scarcely an ailment into whose etiology the taking of cold is not supposed to enter. Rheumatism, rhinitis, acute nephritis, tonsillitis, catarrhal choledochitis, pneumonia, gastritis, pharyngitis, pleurisy and occasionally even metritis and öophoritis are attributed to cold. It is evident that there is concealed behind the expression a multiplicity of pathogenetic processes. As in all cases where a word is employed with a very wide meaning it is reasonably sure that its use gives a presumption of knowledge which does not really exist. Without the handy expression, "You have taken cold," which may mean nearly everything and therefore means next to nothing, to cloak ignorance of the real etiologic process at work, there would be much more careful search for the real causes of illness and a better understanding of the probable methods of prophylaxis that would lessen the number even of the minor ailments which now masquerade under the ample mantle of the word "cold."

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