Common cold is medically termed as coryza. It is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by viruses. There are over 200 different viruses that can cause common cold and this is why it so difficult for people to go a whole year without catching a cold. As a matter of fact, studies show that elementary school children may catch a cold between 6 to 12 different times in a year, whiles adults may experience common cold at least 2 or 3 times within a year.
You may catch a cold at anytime of the year although most people tend to catch a cold more commonly during cold seasons. This doesn’t mean that cold weather causes common cold; cold weathers only make it easier for you to make contact with the viruses that cause the sickness.
The common cold is a self-limiting condition. This means that the sickness resolves on its own after a while even without you necessarily taking any medications. Generally, 7 to 10 days is enough time for most people to recover after catching a cold. Taking over-the-counter cold medications only help alleviate your symptoms but does not cure common cold. In addition, there is no vaccination against common cold, so the best way to guard against catching a cold is to apply the preventive practices that can keep you from making contact with the viruses.
What Are The Symptoms Of Common Cold?
The most frequently occurring viral infection in the world is common cold and it is said to be one of the leading causes of absenteeism in schools and work places. The symptoms appear because of your body’s reaction to the cold virus. Some of the common symptoms of common cold are :
- Sore throat.
- Runny nose.
- Low grade fever.
- Body aches.
- Voice hoarseness
- Reduced appetite.
These symptoms are similar for both children and adults and they usually tend to appear about 2 to 3 days after inhaling or direct contact with the cold virus.
In What Ways Can You Catch A Cold?
The common cold is very contagious because the viruses spread by air droplets when infected people cough or sneeze. You can catch a cold when you inhale the contaminated air. Additionally, these viruses may end up settling down on different surfaces like tables, chairs, toys, utensils, telephones, towels e.t.c., and when you touch these surfaces or touch the hands of someone who has a cold with your hands, the viruses can enter your body through your mouth, eyes or nose.
Rhinovirus is the main culprit for common cold. Reports say that about 50% of all common cold cases are due to infections with rhinovirus. The CDC states that rhinovirus can trigger asthma attacks and may also cause sinus and ear infections.
Other viruses that can cause a cold include
- respiratory syncytial virus,
- human parainfluenza viruses,
- human coronaviruses, and
- human metapneumovirus.
What Increases The Risk Of Catching A Cold?
There are certain factors that can increase a person’s chance of catching a cold. They include:
- Age – Children younger than six are at greatest risk of colds, especially if they spend time in child-care settings.
- Weakened immune system – Having a chronic illness or weakened immune system increases the risk of catching a cold.
- Time of year – Both children and adults are more susceptible to colds in fall and winter, but you can get a cold any time.
- Smoking. You’re more likely to catch a cold and to have more severe colds if you smoke.
- Exposure. Being around many people in places such as at school, large office, or on an airplane, increases the risk of exposure to the viruses that can cause colds.
Are There Any Complications of Common Cold?
There are some complications that may arise as a result of common cold infections. Your symptoms are supposed to disappear between 7 to 10 days. But if symptoms seem to persist for longer or you feel there is something unusual about this particular cold, see your physician as soon as possible. He should be able to diagnose whether there is something else going on in your body or your child apart from a common cold.
The main complications associated with catching a cold include the following :
- Acute ear infection (otitis media) – This occurs when bacteria or viruses enter the space behind the eardrum. Ear infections in children is very common. Typical signs and symptoms include earaches and, in some cases, a green or yellow discharge from the nose or the return of a fever following a common cold.
- Asthma – A cold can trigger an asthma attack. Asthma in children and adults can be life threatening if not properly managed.
- Acute sinusitis – In adults or children, a common cold that doesn’t resolve can lead to inflammation and infection of the sinuses (sinusitis).
- Other secondary infections – These include streptococcal pharyngitis, pneumonia, croup or bronchiolitis and other upper respiratory tract infections in children. These infections need to be treated by a doctor.
What Treatment Remedies Are Available For Common Cold?
There is no particular medication for curing common cold because it is a self-limiting sickness that resolves on its own. However, there are over-the-counter medications available to help alleviate symptoms whiles the body fights off the infection for both children and adults. Antibiotics are not required for treating common cold, therefore, don’t bother taking any or giving your child any.
Cough medications may help alleviate cough symptoms and decongestants may help out with nasal blockages. Throat lozenges or sprays work very well to relieve sore throats. Fever, headaches and body aches can be resolved with paracetamol or NSAID’s like ibuprofen, naproxen, e.t.c. Consult your doctor if you are not sure of which drugs to take or give your child.
Other things you can do at home is to ensure that you rest properly and drink plenty of fluids. Children and infants especially, need to be given plenty fluids to prevent dehydration. If you are pregnant, discuss with your doctor before taking any drugs. This is to ensure that you don’t end up taking any medication that can harm your unborn baby.
Can Common Cold Be Prevented?
There’s currently no vaccine for the common cold, but you can take common-sense precautions to slow the spread of cold viruses. These preventive measures can protect you from catching a cold from others and also protect others from catching a cold from you.
- Wash your hands – Clean your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water, and teach your children the importance of hand-washing. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfect your stuff – Clean kitchen and bathroom counter tops with disinfectant, especially when someone in your family has a cold. Wash your children’s toys periodically.
- Use tissues – Sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away, then wash your hands carefully. Teach children to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow when they don’t have a tissue. That way they cover their mouths without using their hands.
- Don’t share – Don’t share drinking glasses or utensils with other family members. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label the cup or glass with the name of the person with the cold.
- Steer clear – Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold to keep yourself from catching the cold. Also avoid drinking cold water or staying under cold conditions like A/C or fans if you have cold.
- Choose your child care center wisely – Look for a child care setting with good hygiene practices and clear policies about keeping sick children at home.
- Take care of yourself – Eating well, getting exercise, having enough sleep, and managing stress might help you keep colds at bay.