A viral infection of the nose and upper airways. There are at least 200 highly infectious viruses that can cause the common cold. The viruses that cause colds are readily transmitted in tiny airborne droplets from the coughs or sneezes of infected individuals. On the other hand, the most common route of spread is by hand to hand contact with an infected individual or by way of matters that are contaminated with the vims, like a cup or towel. Per se, the common cold isn’t serious, but it can predispose to a chest illness in a vulnerable man with, say, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or in an infant.
Colds can happen at any time of the year, although illnesses are more frequent in the fall and winter. About half the people of Europe and the US grows at least one cold annually. Kids are more susceptible to colds than adults because they haven’t yet developed resistance to the most common viruses and additionally because viruses spread very fast in communities including nursery schools and schools.
Causes of Colds
There are over 120 different viruses that may cause colds. The first time you meet such a virus it is likely to cause a cold because you have no natural immunity. This is why children get so many colds and adults, who have acquired immunity to some viruses, gel far fewer. Even so, three or four a year is common. People in offices or areas with poor ventilation are more at risk because of their exposure to others with colds.
Symptoms of Colds
The first symptoms of a cold grow between 12 hours and 3 days after illness. Symptoms generally intensify over 24-48 hours, unlike those of flu, which worsen rapidly over several hours. Symptoms include:
- regular sneezing
- runny nose with a clear, watery discharge that afterwards becomes heavy and green-coloured
- moderate fever and headache
- sore throat and occasionally a cough
- aching muscles
In some individuals, a common cold may be complicated by a bacterial disease of the torso (bronchitis), or of the sinuses (sinusitis). Bacterial ear diseases, which might cause earache, are a standard complication of colds.
What Can I Do?
Most individuals understand their symptoms as those of a common cold and don’t seek medical advice. Despite a good deal of scientific research there’s no remedy for the common cold but over-the-counter drugs might help alleviate symptoms.
- Painkillers will alleviate a headache and reduce a temperature.
- Decongestants will clear a stuffy nose.
- Cough treatments will soothe a tickling throat.
- It’s vital that you drink lots of cool fluids, especially if you’ve got a temperature.
Many folks erroneously take large amounts of vitamin C to prevent illness and treat the common cold, but the latest research reveals this treatment to be without worth, really dangerous, because mega-doses of vitamin C predispose to heart disease.
If your symptoms don’t improve in a week, or your kid is no better in two days, you should consult a physician.
Treatment of Colds
In the early stages stay warm, take plenty of fluids (to relieve pain in the throat) and paracetamol to reduce temperature and aching. Adults can take aspirin if they prefer, but children under 12 should not have aspirin as it can cause Reye’s syndrome, with convulsions and liver damage. Although Reye’s syndrome is rare, it is usually fatal. Paracetamol (Calpol) is safe for children, or an alternative called ibuprofen.
Antibiotics are of no value at this stage. They usually make no difference to the illness and there is the chance of side effects, such as rashes, diarrhoea and thrush in the mouth or vagina. Only if you develop a complication such as a painful car or mild bronchitis might an antibiotic be advisable. Even then antibiotics hasten recovery only by a couple of days. Other helpful measures are taking aromatic sweets, which help unblock congested passages, and avoiding smoky or fume-filled atmospheres, which set off sneezing or coughing.
There are many cold cures available at the chemist.
These contain a combination of’ a painkiller, such as paracetamol, and caffeine which gives a ‘lift’ to your spirits. Some contain a drug which narrows the blood vessels in the nose and thus relieves the runny nose for a few hours (this is also how nasal sprays for colds work). Remedies may also contain an antihistamine, which also relieves the stuffiness and helps you sleep. These remedies are helpful, but should only be used for a few days and only if they do not interact with any regular medication you are taking (your pharmacist will advise if in doubt).
The common cold is usually easily recognizable and does not need medical attention unless you or your child seem to be suffering more than you might expect. If you’ve got a bacterial disease, your physician may prescribe antibiotics, although they’re unsuccessful against cold viruses. The common cold generally clears up with or without treatment within fourteen days, but a cough may continue more.