Common Cold

1 What is Common Cold?

Common cold is a viral infection of upper respiratory tract including nose and throat.

Most of the cases of common cold are considered harmless. However, physiological conditions may be altered followed by a runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, sneezing, cough and congestion. Since more than 100 viruses have been identified as the causative agents for a common cold, the signs and symptoms brought about by them vary significantly.

In comparison to adults, preschool children are likely to catch cold more frequently.

Common cold is self- limiting and the symptoms resolve within a week or two.

Consult a doctor if symptoms persist beyond this.

2 Symptoms

Some visible symptoms of common cold are:

The nasal discharge gets thicker and pale yellow or green in color as the disease progresses. It is common to experience above mentioned symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Consult a doctor promptly if you observe any of the following sypmtoms:

  • Fever of 103 F (39.4 C) or higher.
  • Fever accompanied by sweating, chills.
  • Cough with colored phlegm.
  • Significantly swollen glands.
  • Severe sinus pain.

Children are more likely to develop complications, such as ear infections.

Take your children for medical consultation if they exhibit symptoms like:

  • Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks.
  • Fever that rises repeatedly above 104 F (40 C) in a child of any age.
  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours.
  • Signs of dehydration.
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain.
  • Unusual sleepiness.
  • Severe headache.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Persistent crying.
  • Ear pain.
  • Persistent cough.

3 Causes

More than 100 viruses have been identified as causative agents for a common cold.

Among all, Rhinovirus is the most common and is highly contagious.

The common cold virus transmits through droplets in the air when a sick person coughs, sneezes or talks.

Hand to hand contact or sharing a contaminated objects such as utensils, towels, toys or telephones can easily infect a healthy person.

4 Making a Diagnosis

When you suspect that you have caught a common cold, prepare a list of information for your own reference and be prepared for a doctor’s appointment to receive a diagnosis.

Write down any symptoms that you have currently experienced along with its duration.

Note down the severity of symptoms, alteration of symptoms, fever patterns, etc. All these data generated can help better diagnosis of your health condition as well as prepare you for productive conversation with the doctor.

This helps both doctor and patient to work-out a strict treatment plan to bring you back to normalcy.

5 Treatment

Several treatment methods are used to manage symptoms of common cold.

Currently, there is no cure for common cold.

Anti-cold medicines can help you manage symptoms like body aches, headache, nasal congestion, stuffy nose and other discomforts associated with the disease. However they are not safer all the time especially not for children as they come along with minor to major side effects.

For example: Aspirin may lead to Reye's syndrome, a potentially life threatening condition in children who are recovering from chickenpox or flu-like syndrome. Similarly, prolonged use of nasal decongestant drops or sprays can cause chronic rebound inflammation of mucous membranes in adults.

Children are strictly restricted to use decongestant drops or sprays. Most of the antihistamine products aid to relieve allergic conditions but may cause extravasation as well as rebound congestion.

To cope with the discomfort associated with common cold, replenish yourself with plenty of fluids, take rest and wait your immune system win over again.

6 Prevention

Here are some measures to prevent the rapid spread of common cold virus:

  • Wash or clean your hands regularly with soap and detergents.
  • Keep kitchen and bathroom countertops clean.
  • Always cover your mouth while sneezing and coughing. If you don’t have tissues to cover, sneeze or cough into the bend of your elbow.
  • Don't share any utensils with infected person.
  • Avoid hand to hand contact and proximity with infected person.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative remedies are used for managing symptoms of common cold.

  • Intake of vitamin C at the onset of cold symptoms has been proven to shorten the duration of common cold symptoms.
  • Echinacea has been used as a promising ingredient to prevent severity or shorten the duration of cold symptoms when taken in the early stages of a cold.
  • Zinc intake may reduce symptoms like bad taste and nausea.
  • Steam or hot water therapy can reduce nasal congestion temporarily.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Staying comfortable as much as possible is the best coping strategy during common cold.

Drinking plenty of fluids like water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water, etc. to stay dehydrated and alleviate the symptoms.

Avoid caffeine and smoking.

Chicken has anti-inflammatory, decongestant and mucolytic properties. So, give it a try.

Don’t socialize too much during cold to avoid disease spread. If you need to, wear a mask. Try out saltwater gargle to relieve a sore or scratchy throat.

A saline nasal drops can also help you reduce the congestion.

9 Risks and Complications

Infants and children are at higher risk of catching common cold owing to their weak immune function. Their immune system gets better with subsequent exposure to the cold viruses.

Failing to comply with hygiene rules, proper hand washing and negligence in covering mouth while coughing or sneezing are major reasons for disease spread. Fall and winter are the seasons when people of all ages are more likely to catch cold.

The major risky areas to get infected are highly crowded areas, unhygienic places and utensils. You may experience complications like sleep disruption and physical discomforts.

However, common cold may lead to more severe complications such as ear infection in children, asthma attacks, sinusitis, pharyngitis, pneumonia and bronchitis.

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