Aachoo! Everyone might be familiar with this sound. Sneezing, scratchy throat, runny nose are the first sign of common cold. Common cold is one of the leading causes of doctor visits and missed days from school and work. Most adults are likely to have common cold two to four times a year. Children, especially preschoolers, are prone to common cold as many as six to 10 times annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million school days are lost annually in the United States due to the common cold. The common cold, or viral upper respiratory infection, is uncomfortable, but it is usually just an inconvenience. Though most of you are well known about common cold, here I would like to shed light on the symptoms and precautions one should take.
Symptoms of a common cold usually appear about one to three days after exposure to a cold virus. The symptoms include congestion, fever, runny nose, cough and sore throat. The easiest way to catch a cold is from other people; by shaking their hands, being near their sneeze or by touching things they have touched.
To prevent the spread of viral upper respiratory infections:
- Keep your distance from people who are coughing and sneezing.
- Wash your hands frequently
- Catch your cough or sneeze by bending your arm and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or clothing, i.e. cover your mouth when you sneeze.
- Sinus congestion colored nasal discharge and headaches frequently accompanies colds and do not necessarily indicate that a serious infection is present.
- The onset of cold symptoms is rapid. Symptoms worsen during the first to five days and then gradually begin to improve.
- A cold will usually go away in seven to 14 days, regardless of what you do. A mild cough may last two to three weeks.
- Some loss of appetite, fatigue or difficulty sleeping is normal with colds.
- Mild cough often persists for two to three weeks after other symptoms improve.
- Bacterial infections complicate only a small percentage of colds.
What are the self care steps for cold?
Commonly used cold remedies do not cure or shorten a cold, but there are many steps you can take to minimize your symptoms as you wait for a cold to pass.
Raise the humidity at home:
- You can sit in the bathroom with hot shower running or use a humidifier/vaporizer to increase humidity level (a cool mist is preferred). If you are using a humidifier, empty and clean it daily by following the manufacture’s instruction.
- Warm fluids are especially soothing for irritating throats
Sleep with your head elevated:
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Gargle with salt water or suck hard candy (adults and teen only):
- Homemade salt water or store version (1/4 teaspoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water),, will help relieve a sore throat. Hard candy is as effective for sore throats as cough drops.
Keep sinuses clear:
- Use a salt water nasal spray (Flumist) such as Ocean or any generic nasal spray available in your local pharmacy. Nasal sprays or decongestants may provide temporary relief. Patients, who have high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease or are pregnant, should check with their doctor regarding recommendations for decongestant use. Also there is technique that you can practice to relieve your sinus, which is called neti.
Remain up and about:
- You may benefit from extra rest, but generally you will feel better by staying moderately active. Because colds are viral infections, there are no medicines that will cure or shorten their length.
What are the suggested medications for colds?
Antibiotics are only effective for treating bacterial infection. Misuse of antibiotics increases the chances of developing infections that are resistant to treatment.
For adults with colds, over the counter decongestants (NyQuil), pain relievers and cough suppressants (Corex, Advil, Tylenol, Mucinex) may provide temporary relief to sore throat, runny noses, coughing or minor aches. Because of potential side effects, however, be sure to follow the recommended dosage and precautions. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, thyroid disease or are pregnant, check with your doctor regarding the use of over the counter medications.
Zinc: Zinc gluconate may decrease the length of a cold if it is taken within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms. It may cause nausea and a bad taste in your mouth. Children, pregnant women and individuals with chronic kidney or liver disease should not use zinc.
Vitamin C: There’s no evidence that taking large doses of vitamin C reduces your risk of catching cold. However, there is some evidence that high doses of vitamin C — up to 6 grams a day — may have a small effect in reducing the duration of cold symptoms according to Mayoclinic.
Common cold as the name sounds is very common and most of us catch it, frequently every year, especially during the climate change. No vaccine has been developed for the common cold, which can be caused by many different viruses (according to Mayoclinic). The only way to keep yourself healthy is to apply common sense and take precautions to slow the spread of cold.