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Key Information About Common Cold

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Common cold is an acute contagious disease of the upper respiratory tract. Adults have an average of 4-6 colds per year, and children have even more.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Causes

Common cold is caused by more than 200 different viruses. Rhinovirus is the most common cause, accounting for 10 to 40 percent of colds. Coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also cause this medical condition.

These viruses are made up of DNA or RNA coated in protein. They cause illnesses by latching on to a host's cell, and hijacking its processes. This makes the cell replicate the genetic material of the virus.

"I think cold weather could play a factor and increase the number of common colds. I don't think being cold makes you more likely to get sick but it can weaken your immune system and the influenza virus, in particular, is more readily spread in cooler temperatures" said Ann Monken, Nurse Practitioner, Union Hospital, Terre Haute, Indiana, USA.

Anyone can get a cold, although pre-school and grade school children catch them more frequently than adolescents and adults.

The reason why we frequently get common colds is because while our body develops immunity to one type of virus, in the next season it gets exposed to another.

Rhinovirus

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Essentially, the virus spreads by being propelled from an infected person, usually through saliva or nasal mucus when they cough or sneeze, and gets lodged into someone else’s body.

— Dr. Caesar Djavaherian, MD, Carbon Health.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the virus, and on the age and general health of the patient. They generally appear 24–72 hours after infection.

Sore throat is the first symptom, followed by nasal stuffiness and runny nose, sneezing and coughing.

Cough is worse on the fourth or fifth day of the condition, while the nose symptoms improve. The nasal discharge is initially watery, and becomes thicker and yellowish. This does not necessarily indicate a bacterial infection.

Headache commonly occurs with common cold because sinuses often become inflamed, irritated, and congested, leading to head and facial pain.

Fatigue, hoarseness, conjunctivitis and muscle pain (not always) are other symptoms of common cold.

Common cold is infectious from a few days before the symptoms appear until all of the symptoms are gone.

key-information-about-common-cold

Diagnosis

Common cold is diagnosed by symptoms. If the doctor suspects bacterial infection or other illness, he or she may order chest X-ray or other tests.

Treatment

There is no cure for common cold. These viruses mutate very frequently, which makes it “easier for them to escape a drug,” said Susan Hafenstein, a structural virologist with the College of Medicine at Penn State.

"It is important to remember that antibiotics only kill bacteria, not viruses. If you have a cold or the flu, a sore throat not caused by strep, or a runny nose, an antibiotic is not the right medicine for you," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr Rachel Levine.

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The most important thing you can do is drink a lot of fluids to keep your body hydrated. This will help prevent another infection from setting in.

Gargling, an old-school remedy, eases sore throat. You can choose from a variety of saltwater gargle recipes, including gargling with one teaspoon of salt mixed in a cup of warm water.

Warm liquids have a soothing effect. They ease congestion. Lemon water with honey can loosen congestion and prevent dehydration.

Regarding nasal congestion, apply saline or warm water with salt on the nose for quick relief.

Practice yoga asanas like Uttanasana. These asanas bring energy to the head and respiratory area and heal various symptoms of this medical condition naturally.

Nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines and analgesics are used to treat the symptoms of this condition.

Medicines with pseudoephedrine will tighten blood vessels (vasoconstrict), which is why they can help relieve congestion.

Nebulizer is a device for producing a fine spray of liquid, used for example to inhale a medicine. It is used by doctors to treat common cold. Do not use nebulizers without the direction of a doctor.

Prevention

Do yoga daily. Yoga asanas like Tadasana are immune system boosters. Wear a face mask when you go outside. Avoid large crowds.

Teach kids to use tissues to sneeze or cough into. If a tissue is not available, teach kids to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow.

Sleep for at least eight hours during the night. During long periods of sleep, the body releases cytokines.

Cytokines are a type of protein that regulates the immune system which in result helps the body to fight infections.

Disabling a single, apparently noncritical protein in cells may foil replication of the viruses that cause half of all common colds, polio and other diseases, according to researchers at Stanford and UCSF.

Include cruciferous vegetables in your diet. In March 2022, research scientists at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center reported evidence from lab experiments that sulforaphane, a chemical derived from a compound found abundantly in broccoli and other cruciferous plants may offer a potentially new and potent weapon against viruses that cause common cold and COVID-19.

The study was published in the Nature journal Communications Biology.

Myths

  • ​Vitamin C is a cure for common cold.
  • You can catch a cold by not keeping yourself warm during winter.
  • Yellow or green nasal mucus is a sure sign that it is something more than a cold.
  • If you have a cold, taking an antibiotic cannot hurt—and might even help.
  • It is hopeless! There is nothing you can do to ward off colds.

Summary

Common cold is a contagious disease.

It is caused by more than 200 viruses.

Symptoms appear 24–72 hours after infection.

It is diagnosed by symptoms.

Lemon water with honey can loosen congestion.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Rhinovirus accounts for what percent of colds?
    • 40 to 70
    • 30 to 60
    • 10 to 40
    • 20 to 50
  2. Which is the first symptom of common cold?
    • Body ache
    • Sore throat
    • Red eyes
    • Yellow skin
  3. Gargling eases sore throat.
    • True
    • False
  4. Tadasana enhances immunity.
    • True
    • False
  5. Which medicine is used to treat common cold?
    • Nasal decongestants
    • Cough suppressants
    • Expectorants
    • All the above

Answer Key

  1. 10 to 40
  2. Sore throat
  3. True
  4. True
  5. All the above

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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