Healthy Living

The Common Cold: Symptoms and Management

The Common Cold: Symptoms and Management

Key Takeaways

  • The common cold resolves on its own within a few days.
  • You may be highly contagious in the first couple of days of the cold. 
  • Nasal decongestants, anti-histamines, and pain killers can help to reduce the symptoms.
  • Visit a doctor if you have the cold for more than two weeks or have a persisting fever. This may be a sign of a bacterial infection and you may need antibiotics. 

We all have had more than one episode of a common cold in our lives. This is the commonest infection we all experience.  A cold usually begins 2 to 3 days after being exposed to an infected source. Once you catch a cold, it will last for about a week but sometimes it can even go on for more than two weeks in some individuals. People with a cold are most infectious in the first few days of the infection and can continue to be infectious even up to three weeks.  

How will you know if you got the cold?

If you have a cold, the symptoms you will most likely experience are:

How to treat the cold

A common cold is self-limiting, meaning that it will resolve on its own without any medication.  You are most likely to be contagious in the first few days of the cold so stay home and bed rest. Colds are caused by viruses so antibiotics are not going to help you. However, if the symptoms are troubling you, over-the-counter medications such as anti-histamines, nasal decongestants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and Acetaminophen can be purchased to ease you with the nasal congestion, body aches and pains.

Anti-histamines are drugs that block the histamine production in your body. Histamines cause the tissues in your nose to swell and itch. Even though histamines do not play a major role in a common cold, anti-histamines relieve some of the symptoms.

Nasal decongestants are available as pills and as sprays. Decongestants work by reducing the swelling of the nasal tissues in your airway passage so that air can easily flow through the air ways thus making it easy for you to breath.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and Acetaminophen are pain killers to relieve your headache, body aches, and pains.

Some people take Vitamin C and zinc during a cold; however, studies have not shown to prove that these cold remedies reduce the symptoms of a cold.

Your doctor may prescribe you vitamin C to strengthen your immune system.

Drink plenty of water and other fluids to prevent dehydration.

A common cold usually goes down within a few days by its own. If you have been having the cold for more than two weeks now, or have a persisting fever, visit your physician for further assessment. You may have a bacterial infection which may need antibiotics.