We all dread the common cold, don’t we?
This all-too-familiar adversary is a viral infection that plagues your upper respiratory tract, bringing with it a medley of sneezes, coughs and congestion.
In this blog post we look into the various aspects of your common cold, such as its symptoms, causes, stages, misconceptions, prevention strategies and treatment options.
What is Common Cold?
Common cold is a viral infection that affects your upper respiratory tract. It is a prevalent illness, and most people will experience multiple colds throughout their lives.
Although usually mild and self-limiting, this viral infection can cause discomfort and disrupt your daily activities.
Why is it Important to Understand Common Cold?
With numerous myths and misconceptions surrounding common cold, it is essential to understand its causes, symptoms and treatment options.
Stages of a Cold
Stage 1: Early Symptoms
The first stage of a cold typically involves a scratchy or sore throat, sneezing and a runny nose. These early symptoms usually appear within 1-3 days of exposure to the virus.
Stage 2: Peak Symptoms
The second stage involves the peak of symptoms, which can include a stuffy nose, cough and mild fatigue. This stage generally occurs around days 3-5 of the illness.
Stage 3: Recovery
During the recovery stage, symptoms gradually subside, and most people feel better within 7-10 days. However, a lingering cough or congestion may persist for up to two weeks.
Symptoms of Common Cold
Understanding the common cold’s various symptoms is essential for early detection and effective management.
Here, we present a list of symptoms that may signify its unwelcome arrival.
How Common Cold Spreads
The common cold spreads through various means, making it highly contagious.
Here are the specific ways it can spread:
To reduce the risk of catching or spreading the viral infection, it is essential to practice good hygiene, such as regular handwashing, using hand sanitiser and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Viruses Responsible for the Viral Infection
While numerous viruses can cause common cold, some are more frequently responsible for this widespread infection. The primary viruses include:
Certain factors can increase your likelihood of catching a common cold. These risk factors include:
You need to be aware of these risk factors so that you can help yourself adopt preventive measures and minimise your chances of catching a cold.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle, practise good hygiene and manage your stress effectively. This will contribute to your stronger immune system and your better overall health.
Misconceptions and Myths
Let’s debunk the myths and misconceptions surrounding common cold first in order to make better-informed health decisions regarding prevention and treatment.
Antibiotics cure common cold
Antibiotics target bacterial infections, not viral infections like the common cold.
Using antibiotics to treat a cold is not only ineffective but can also contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Vitamin C prevents or cures colds
While vitamin C is essential for your health, it has not been proven either to prevent or cure the viral infection.
However, some studies suggest it may slightly reduce the severity and duration of symptoms in some people.
Cold weather causes colds
Cold weather itself does not cause colds.
However, people tend to spend more time indoors during colder months, increasing the likelihood of exposure to cold viruses.
Feed a cold, starve a fever
This old adage has no scientific basis.
It is crucial to maintain proper nutrition and hydration during any illness to support recovery.
You’re most contagious before symptoms appear
While you can be contagious before displaying cold symptoms, you’re generally most contagious during the first two to three days of the illness when symptoms are most prominent.
Colds can sometimes lead to sinus infections, causing symptoms such as facial pain and pressure, and green or yellow nasal discharge.
Middle Ear Infections
Cold viruses can spread to the middle ear, causing a painful ear infection, especially in children.
Colds can trigger asthma flare-ups, leading to increased wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing.
Lower Respiratory Tract Infections
In rare cases, colds can lead to more severe lower respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, especially in people with weakened immune systems.
When to Seek Medical Help
If you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, high fever or symptoms lasting longer than 10 days, it is essential to seek medical help, as these could be signs of complications or another illness.
Diagnosing common cold is usually based on reported symptoms, as they are quite recognisable. However, cold symptoms can sometimes resemble those of bacterial infections, allergies or other medical conditions.
In cases where symptoms are severe or persistent, it’s important to consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. He/she may perform additional tests, such as throat swabs or blood tests, to confirm the diagnosis or identify the specific virus or other underlying cause.
There are no approved and effective antiviral medications available for treating common cold.
But this viral infection is generally a self-limiting illness, and the focus of treatment remains on alleviating symptoms and providing comfort during the recovery process.
Regular handwashing with soap and water or using hand sanitiser can help prevent the spread of cold viruses.
Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and disposing of tissues properly can help prevent the spread of cold viruses to others.
Strengthening Your Immune System
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, balanced diet and adequate sleep, can help support your immune system and reduce your risk of catching a cold.
Understanding the common cold is crucial for effective prevention and treatment.
By debunking misconceptions surrounding it, practicing good hygiene and seeking appropriate care, we can mitigate the impact of the common cold and greatly reduce its recurrence.
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Sources: Mayo Clinic (1, 2), CDC, emedicinehealth, Cleveland Clinic, Healthline (1, 2), Johns Hopkins (1, 2), NCBI (1, 2, 3), PMC, DHS.