Common Colds

A viral infection which affects the upper respiratory tract, the common cold is the most common infectious disease. Kids get as many as 8 colds per year. The common cold is the number one reason why kids visit the doctor. It’s also the number one reason why kids stay home from school.

Causes

The rhinoviruses are responsible for half of all colds. Invisible to the naked eye, these viruses are the air we breathe and on things that we touch.

More than 100 rhinoviruses can get into the protective lining of the nose of throat. Once there, it triggers an immune system reaction that may cause sore throats, headaches, and can make breathing though the nose difficult.

Dry air, smoking, or being around a smoker can lower resistance to the rhinoviruses. People who smoke are more susceptible to this infection, and are more likely to have more severe symptoms. Common cold symptoms also tend to last longer in smokers, and are more likely to develop into bronchitis or pneumonia.

Contrary to popular belief, not wearing a jacket when it’s cold, sitting or sleeping in a draft, and going outside when your hair is still wet do not cause colds.

Common cold signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of colds may include: a tickle in the throat, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, cough, headache, mild fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. Nasal discharge or mucus may turn from watery to thick yellow or green.

Duration

Cold symptoms typically appear after 2-3 days after being exposed to the virus. Some colds clear up after a week, while some last for as long as two weeks.

Contagiousness

Colds are most contagious during the first 2-4 days after symptoms disappear, and may be contagious for up to 3 weeks.

You can catch cold by breathing in virus particles spread through the air by sneezing or coughing. Touching the mouth or nose after touching a contaminated surface may also spread the cold.

Prevention

There are so many viruses that cause colds that creating a vaccine against them may not be possible.

To help prevent colds, experts recommend:

  • Avoiding people who smoke, and people who have colds. When a person coughs or sneezes, virus particles can travel up to 12 feet through the air, while secondhand smoke can make a child more susceptible to the infection.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, particularly after blowing your nose.
  • Cover your nose and mouths when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a handkerchief, sneeze or cough into a shirtsleeve and not on your hands to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • Not using the same towels or eating utensils as someone who has a cold. Also avoid drinking from the same glass or bottle as anyone else – some people may already be infected, and they’re symptoms have not yet manifested.
  • Do not pick up other people’s used tissues.

Researchers are still unsure whether taking extra vitamin C, zinc, or vitamin D can help shorten the duration or reduce the severity of an infection. One thing is certain though, large doses taken everyday can cause negative side effects, while taking extremely large doses everyday can be toxic.

Treatment

There is actually no cure for the common cold. Colds normally clear up on its own. Medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can only alleviate the symptoms.

Kids younger than 12 years old should never be given aspirin. Teens under age 19 on the other hand, should not take aspirin during viral illnesses because it may increase their risk of developing Reyes syndrome.

There is no proof that decongestant and antihistamines actually work. In fact, decongestants can cause hallucinations, irritability, and irregular heartbeats in infants, and shouldn’t be given to kids younger than 2 without first consulting a doctor.

Remedies to ease symptoms

  • Saltwater drops or saline water drops to relieve nasal congestion
  • Cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture
  • Cough drops to relieve sore throat
  • Warm bath or heating pad to relieve aches and pains
  • Steam (from a hot water or a water heater) to help you breathe more easily
  • Petroleum jelly applied on the skin under the nose to soothe rawness
  • Plenty of fluids like water or juice to replace fluids lost during fever or mucus production

Lastly, just make sure to eat when you get hungry. Go for tried-and-tested chicken soup. Although there is no proof that it can actually cure a cold, chicken soup contains the amino acid cysteine which thins the mucus to help relieve a stuffy nose. Some research also shows that chicken soup helps control congestion-causing white cells, called neutrophils.

Source: MSN Health