Do you starve a fever and feed a cold?

This old saying has produced a certain amount of good sense and a fair amount of nonsense, according to Dr. John G. Hipps of Emporium, Pa., a general practitioner and counselor for more than 30 years.Most colds are caused by viruses and are associated with a fever. It is pretty hard to have one without the other. Not knowing whether there is a cold without a fever or vice versa can make it really tricky when deciding whether to eat or not.

The common-sense thing to do with a virus head cold depends on what symptoms there are and how severe they are. If there is nasal stuffiness, a runny nose and sneezing, an antihistamine should relieve some discomfort.

If there is fever and aching, Tylenol is helpful. When using Tylenol or its equivalent, be aware of the proper dosage: usually one grain for each year of age up to 10 years. After that, the usual adult requirement is two extra-strength tablets.

Some adults, depending on their weight and tolerance, need three tablets to do the job. Be careful not to use aspirin with children because of the danger of Reye's syndrome, an often fatal disease associated with this otherwise harmless drug.

When experiencing loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, rest the stomach and intestinal tract by eating light foods. If diarrhea is bad, try an over-the-counter medication such as Kaopectate. If any of the symptoms are severe, seek prompt medical attention. Don't ignore symptoms.

Keep in mind that if there is a family history of complications with virus colds, such as seizures, ear infections or pneumonia, don't waste time with the self-help advice discussed here. Seek medical attention immediately.

Remember if symptoms persist for more than two or three days, medical attention may be necessary. It can mean the virus is gone, but in its wake, resistance has been lowered. As a result, a bacteria infection might have come into the picture. This will most likely occur in the sinuses, middle ear, throat, bronchial tubes or lungs. Pay attention to these areas.

Don't be overly concerned about dehydration in the presence of a fever for a period of 24 to 72 hours. A clear-liquid diet (anything that can be seen through clearly) will prevent it. Be concerned with fluid loss only if vomiting and diarrhea persist. Keep in mind the body can get along pretty well for days without solid food.

A good rule of thumb is not to eat any solids for the first 12 to 24 hours after the onset of symptoms. Nausea and vomiting will often stop by themselves when the stomach is allowed this kind of rest. After that, drink clear liquids frequently in small quantities. This is often a very good way to retain fluids. If not, an anti--nauseant suppository will work.

When it comes to eating after the clear-liquid stage, broth is the next step back to a regular diet. Chicken broth is the traditional favorite. But any broth will do. It's the heat, not the chicken, that does the trick.