What is Common Cold?
Common cold can be described as a viral infection that usually infects upper part of respiratory system. Humans are commonly affected by this infectious disease which is primarily caused by rhinoviruses or coronaviruses. It is extremely difficult for a human body to build up immunity against all kinds of viruses that cause common cold. This is mainly the reason why this disease is recurring and so common. Studies have already proved that kindergarten children can get affected with as much as twelve colds every year. However, adults and adolescents get affected with nearly seven colds every year. Colds do not have any specific treatment and fever reducers as well as cough suppressants are generally used to get some relief.
How does Common Cold Start?
People mainly get affected with common cold during winter and fall season. During cold season instances of common cold increase to a great extent mainly because people spend most of their time indoors which causes easy transmission of virus to others. The virus gets into nose cells lining and starts to reproduce. The virus can also get transmitted from different materials touched by the infected person. The blood vessels are opened up by immunity system of the body with the help of inflammation and mucous secretions also increase. Stuffy feeling and runny nose are caused by these 2 processes. When the virus reaches the lung cells lining, mucous along with fluid secretion starts to take place leading to cough.
Symptoms of Common Cold
The symptoms associated with common cold start appearing 1 to 3 days later after infection starts to settle down. Some of the commonly observed symptoms include:
- Nasal Congestion or Runny Nose
- Sore Throat
- Slight Ache in the Muscles
- Mild Fatigue
- Watery Eyes
- Mild Fever
The symptoms in children and infants are quite similar to that of adults. Common cold generally starts with runny nose accompanied by clear discharge. In later stages, the discharge may become greenish or yellowish in colour. Children and infants tend to show decreased appetite and even become a bit fussy. Symptoms usually last from 4 to fourteen days and signs of improvement start appearing within one week.
Common Cold in Children
Bringing sneezes and sniffles along with sore throat, common cold affects nearly every person at least few times a year. However, children and kids fall prey to this viral infection nearly eight to nine times in a year. Studies have found that common cold is the biggest factor in the US which causes kids to visit a doctor as well as not attend school. The primary reason behind cold is the rhinoviruses which get into the body through the air or through touching different things. The symptoms are usually worse within initial ten days and few children continue with congestion, runny nose and cough even after ten days. There is no reason to get concerned unless, serious symptoms start developing.
How to be prepared for the Winter Season?
Common cold attacks during winter season can easily be avoided with the help of few preparation steps. The most important thing is to keep the hands absolutely clean as they are always exposed to different types of germs. Another, important thing to consider is to stay properly clothed by wearing long undergarments, gloves, sweaters, skull cap and scarves. The face should also be properly covered in case of severe weather conditions. A visit to the family doctor just before the arrival of winter season helps to get proper advices regarding what must be done to avoid common colds attacks during winter. People who have the habit of taking early morning showers need to make sure that they fully dry themselves before heading to work.
When is it Time to Call a Doctor?
Colds happen to be viral infections that normally go away without or with treatments in about two weeks. However, there are a few symptoms to look for that might indicate it is time to visit the doctor. A visit to the doctor is necessary in case there is:
- Feeling like fainting or fainting
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Cough which stays from more over ten days without signs of improvement
- High fever that stays for a prolonged period of time
- Pressure or pain in chest
- A feeling of disorientation or confusion
- The symptoms of cold tend to get worse instead of getting better
- There is a feeling of falling short of breath
What are the Causes of Cold?
Common cold is also known by the name viral rhinitis happens to be a very common infection affecting humans. Common cold is generally mild and even without treatment improvements starts appearing only after a few days. The infection mainly takes place on the upper part of respiratory system by different varieties of viruses. It is believed that there are around two hundred particular viruses which cause common cold. As common cold can be caused by so many different viruses therefore, no vaccination could be developed for common cold.
Types of Cold Viruses
As already discussed, common cold can result from two hundred different types of viruses. Here is a list of some of the most common viruses that causes common cold in humans:
Colds in adults are mainly caused by coronaviruses. They cause symptoms of cold primarily during early spring and winter season. Even though, there are around thirty varieties of coronaviruses but, only three or four affect humans.
These viruses are believed to be the main reason behind common cold in about thirty to thirty five percent of adults. They are highly active during summer, spring and fall and grow best when the temperature is about 91°F (temperature inside human nose).
- Other Viruses
Nearly ten to fifteen percent of adults get affected by other viruses which can lead to more serious illnesses. The viruses include Coxsackieviruses, Adenoviruses, Echoviruses, Paramyxoviruses (includes quite a few parainfluenza viruses), Enteroviruses, Orthomyxoviruses (includes viruses that cause flu) and Respiratory syncytial viruses.
Other Causes of Common Cold
Even though, viruses are believed to be the main reason behind the occurrence of common cold but, some of the studies have showed that stress also increases susceptibility towards common cold. Too much of stress results in alteration of the immune function of the body thus, making people more susceptible towards infections and common cold. Infection rate is highly increased by psychological stress which in turn, increases risks of respiratory illness. Factors like sleep depravity, stress as well as malnutrition affect immune system of the body and make a person more prone towards common cold. Adequate nutrition and sleep along with stress free life helps in prevention of common cold.
Is there Allergies Related to Common Cold?
Allergies and cold share different symptoms and sometimes it can get difficult to know the actual cause behind the discomfort. However, there are a few signs which can help with the determination of whether it is an allergy or cold. Unlike, cold which generally results from different viruses, allergies occur from allergens like dust, pollen, etc. Common cold generally last for around ten days whereas allergies can bother people for quite a few months. Common cold generally gets associated with congestion and coughing whereas, itchiness of eyes, mouth and throat indicate occurrence of allergy. Common cold generally affect people during winter season while, allergies are common during the period from spring to fall when pollination of seeds occur from plants.
What is the Risks Related to Common Cold?
The cold causing virus enters the human body through the nose or mouth. Common cold is highly contagious which is why, people can easily get affected by touching their nose or eyes after they have touched contaminated surfaces. The germs can also be inhaled through the droplets present in air when a person sneezes or coughs. Some of the risk factors associated with common cold include immunity system of the body, age and even the season.
Risks among Newborns
New born babies are always susceptible towards common cold mainly because of the fact that their immune system isn’t mature enough. In case, the age of the newborn baby is less than two or three months, the doctor should be called early during illness. Common cold in newborns can rapidly develop into pneumonia, croup or other serious illnesses. Medical help is necessary when:
- Temperature is more than 38°C or 100.4°F
- The baby is not wetting as usual
- The baby faces trouble breathing
- The baby has persistent cough
- There is greenish or yellow discharge from the eye
- There is thick green discharge from the nose for quite a few days
- The baby remains irritable and seems like having ear pain
In between the time left for the appointment of the baby, parents should take all the necessary steps to make the baby as comfortable as possible. The air inside the house should be moistened and the mucous should be removed from the nose of the baby frequently. It is always advised to avoid OTC medications in case of new born babies. Proper amount of fluids should be fed to the baby so as to keep the baby properly hydrated. Breast-feeding should be continued as mother’s milk acts as protection against germs that cause common cold. It is important for the parents to make sure that the baby is always handled with properly washed hands.
Common Risks among Children
Children have greater chances of catching colds every year unlike, adults mostly because of the fact that their immune systems are not fully developed and they are always in close contact with kids. Studies have shown that children can get affected by nearly eight to nine colds every year whereas adults get affected only 2 to 4 times a year. When the body of the child is affected by common cold viruses it can cause:
- Swelling of nose lining
- Increased mucous production
- Watery Eyes
- Sore throat
- Mild fever
- Achy bones and muscles
- Mild fatigue
A major risk factor when it comes to common cold in children is the time of the year. The common cold viruses are highly active during the winter and fall season. As children spend majority of their time indoors during harsh winter seasons, they get exposed to increased percentage of common cold causing viruses. During winter season the nasal passages dry up which makes them more susceptible towards viruses. Respiratory infections are increased by too much exposure to smoke from cigarettes. This is one of the reasons why parental smoking should always be avoided in front of young children.
Risks among Children Staying in Day Care Facilities
Children staying in day care facilities may get affected with common colds initially but, their immunity gets built up during the process which keeps them at bay from catching frequent colds during later part of their lives. The risk factors associated with common cold while staying at day care facilities include:
- Exposure to common cold viruses as other children may be affected.
- Direct contact with other kids already having cold or flu.
- Children may even get affected by touching the toys and other stuffs available at the day care facility.
It is important for the parents to make sure that the day care facilities they are choosing maintain proper cleanliness and hygiene standards. Day care facilities that focus highly on disinfection and cleanliness have greater chances of reducing risk of common cold. Parents should keep their child at home away from day care facilities for few days when:
- They have fever which is over 100°C indicating the child has been affected by some serious contagious infection.
- The child shows other illnesses signs like dry mouth, weakness, sunken eyes and inability to consume fluids.
- Common cold has affected other children attending the facility.
Risks among Young People Staying in College Dorms
Starting college is no doubt an exciting time for most young people but, they are also burdened with the responsibility to take proper care of themselves in the best possible manner to avoid diseases and illnesses. Catching a cold while staying at the college dorm isn’t something strange as young people are always exposed to cold causing viruses within the close quarters of the dormitories. The common cold risk factors associated with staying in college dormitories include:
- Stress of getting admitted to the college and staying away from home.
- Exposure to different types of cold causing viruses either through direct contact or through touching different items and objects within the dorm.
- Sleep deprivation because of increasing pressure of studies and projects.
It is always advised to young people that they pay proper attention towards hygiene and always wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs. In case, washing the hands at all times isn’t a feasible option, they should carry hand sanitizers to use them whenever they feel the need to. Maintaining well balanced diet, keeping the room clean and tidy and getting proper exercise are some of the other factors that young people need to focus on during their stays at the college dorms.
Risks among People with a Weaker Immune System
Low immunity function is referred to the poor and underactive performance of the immune system. Immune system plays a vital role towards protecting the body from different germs and diseases. Susceptibility of the body towards colds increases with weaker immune systems making it more prone to attacks from different types of cold causing viruses. The low immunity function of the body generally results from:
- Emotional state of the person
- Stress level
- Nutritional status
- Dietary habits
People with weaker immune systems should opt for healthy diets containing proper amounts of natural foods, wholegrain foods, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. Apart from fluid intake should be increased along with daily exercise program. Foods rich in carotenes like carrots, sweet potatoes, dark greens, etc should be included within the diet. Yoghurt is considered to be a great immune function booster and helps to destroy germs and infections invading the body. However, the most vital thing is to stay optimistic and happy as it has been observed that in depressed state, the immune functions tend to get weakened. Effort should be made to stay get rid of negative emotions and stay positive, healthy and happy.
Risks among Old People
Common cold attacks nearly every person in this world starting from young children to mature adults. However, older people are at much higher risk of developing common colds if:
- They are affected with severe health conditions like Parkinson’s disease, heart diseases, diabetes or HIV.
- They consume medications on a daily basis because of some disease which can weaken their immune systems.
- They are suffering from neurodevelopmental or neurological conditions.
- They are suffering from severe lung diseases.
Another great risk that people above the age of sixty five are exposed to is pneumonia. It has been observed that nearly ninety percent of deaths resulting from influenza and pneumonia in the US occur among the elderly people. Elderly people are always advised to avoid OTC medications as they can cause serious complications and side-effects. The best way to treat mild common cold infections is by maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. Chicken soup helps with clearance of nasal congestion and even has several health benefits. Elder people should always make it a point to keep their bodies well hydrated as its assists with keeping mucous thin. When mucous is thin, it gets drained easily from upper part of respiratory tract. As a result, occurrence of pneumonia, bronchitis or sinus infection can easily be avoided. In case, the infection persists for more than ten to fourteen days, a visit to the doctors is highly recommended.
Preventions for Common Cold
Common cold can prove to be a big nuisance as there is no absolute cure available for it. The best thing to do is to take appropriate preventative measures that will help avoid catching a cold and suffer from symptoms like scratchy throat, runny nose, etc.
Washing the hand thoroughly with water and soap helps to keep common cold causing viruses at bay and even prevents the transmission of cold to others. Hands need to be washed quite often especially during the winter season. In case, water is not available instantly, hand sanitizers that are alcohol based prove quite effective.
There are quite a few natural products available that help to prevent cold to some extent. Among them, garlic is highly recommended mainly because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties. However, it is important to make sure that garlic is consumed raw as cooking destroys its potency. Apart from garlic, coconut oil also helps in boosting the body’s immune system as it contains lauric acid. The acid is converted in the body to a compound which has antimicrobial properties.
Prevention at School
Children are always at greater risk of catching a flu or cold as they get exposed to different germs while at school. The viruses can easily spread by touching of contaminated surfaces as well as direct contact. Children get affected by other kids carrying the cold causing virus. Therefore, it is important to teach them to always wash hands before they touch their nose, eyes and mouth. It is also vital to teach them to cover their face when they sneeze and cough.
The dietary supplement, Echinacea is used by many people to limit the further progress of common cold symptoms. However, research has showed that although Echinacea can assist with cold treatment in some people when taken during early stages whereas, in others there has been no effect of the supplement.
Healthy and Strong Immune System
It is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle accompanied by proper amount of exercise and healthy foods. The immunity system of the body plays a big role towards keeping off infections and diseases from the body. Thus, stronger and healthier immune system guarantees a healthy and happy life. Another important thing to consider is to keep the stress levels low as it tends to weaken the immune system of the human body.
What are the Symptoms of Common Cold?
Common cold can be defined as the infection of upper airways and nose caused by different viruses. On an average, adults can get two to four colds every year while, young children may get affected eight to ten every year with common cold. There are around one hundred different types of viruses that can cause common cold. A good thing is that, common cold usually does not cause any damage and tends to settle down within seven to ten days. However, if the symptoms tend to persist for more than two week, a visit to the doctor is always recommended.
What are the Initial Symptoms of Common Cold?
Symptoms associated with common cold generally start appearing two to three days after the body is infected by the virus. The initial symptoms include:
- Blocked nose resulting from mucous or phlegm build-up
- Sore throat
- Swelling of sinuses
- Difficulty in breathing
Some of the other symptoms that are less common include:
- Mild temperature ranging from 100.4°F to 102.2°F
- Loss of smell and taste
- Muscle pain
- Irritation of eyes
- Sense of pressure build-up in the face and ears
It has been observed that symptoms associated with common cold usually reach the worse stage during the initial days of infection. In older children and adults, it can last for as long as seven to eight days. Younger children show symptoms and signs of common cold for about ten to fourteen days.
Are You Allergic or Suffering from Common Cold
Symptoms of allergy and common cold are quite similar and sometimes it gets difficult to exactly find out what might be the cause of your problem. The best way of differentiation is keeping track of the period for which they last. Common cold generally lasts for 7 to ten days whereas duration of allergies depends primarily on what causes it. Some common symptoms associated with allergies include:
Even though, sneezing happens to be common cold symptom as well but, it gets a lot severe, regular and frequent with allergies.
- Itchy Throat, Nose and Eyes
Allergies are the main cause of itchy throat, nose and eyes which is normally not the case with common cold.
- Occurrence of All Symptoms Simultaneously
In case, of common cold symptoms occur in staggered fashion whereas, if you have an allergy all the symptoms start appearing simultaneously.
Can it be Flu?
Flu can be described as respiratory illness which is generally caused by influenza virus. It is not like cold even though the symptoms might look the same. The influenza virus is highly active from the month of October to the month of May. People have greater chances of infection in populated areas such as buses, schools, etc. Symptoms of flu include:
- Sore throat or cough
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Feeling feverish with temperatures of 100°F or more
- Diarrhoea, vomiting or/and nausea
- Body aches
Although, the symptoms of flu can cause great amount of discomfort but usually not dangerous. Immune system of the body gets weakened by flu which can leave a person susceptible to different complications like:
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Ear infections and sinus problems
- Worsening of existing conditions like diabetes or asthma
What are the Symptoms when you need to call the Doctor?
Colds as well as flu get initiated by different viruses. Rhinovirus is believed to be the primary cause behind common cold. Common cold usually does not lead to critical illnesses and symptoms start improving within eight to ten days after its onset. However, there are times when flu and colds can cause pneumonia, strep throat or ear or sinus infections. Old people and people with lung or heart condition should make a visit to the doctor once they get affected by flu or cold. Medical attention is necessary when a person experiences:
- Persistent or severe vomiting
- Glands are swollen to a great extent in the jaw or neck
- Pressure or pain in chest accompanied by breath shortness
- Fainting, confusion
- High fever
- Drainage from ear or pain
- Extreme irritability or lethargy
Symptoms of Common Cold during Pregnancy
The thing with common cold is that it can attack any person at any given point of time. Pregnant women are more susceptible towards cold causing viruses as their immune system goes through certain changes during pregnancy. Symptoms usually remain the same as with other people affected by common cold. Sore throat and coughs can be really annoying in such conditions. Some of the other symptoms include mild fever, headache and stuffy nose. Pregnant women might also get affected by sinus infections and need to visit the doctor immediately in case of further complications. If there is a medical like asthma then, they should make it a point to visit their practitioner’s immediately even with slight difficulties in breathing.
What is the Complications Related to Common Cold?
Although common cold tend to go away without the need to visit the doctor but, there might arise a situation where it can cause health complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma or ear infection. The mucus present in the chest and throat serves as bacteria’s breeding ground. The bacteria gradually build within seven to ten days. However, common cold starts resolving within this period with the mucus taking away the bacteria along with it. But, in case there is overgrowth of bacteria then, it leads to development of serious conditions that can affect health in many ways.
Diseases which may Result out Due to Cold
- Tonsillitis due to Cold
Tonsils can be described as balls of fleshy lymph tissues that are available on either side of throat, behind and above the tongue. Tonsillitis generally results from viruses like adenovirus and Epstein-Barr. Infections start appearing when people breathe infected droplets present in air resulting from coughing or sneezing by those who are infected. The infection may also spread by other forms of contact. Symptoms of tonsillitis include sore throat, swollen and red appearance of the tonsils, pus or spots on tonsils, fever along with usual symptoms of cold like coughing, sneezing and stuffy or runny nose. Tonsillitis similar to cold generally goes away without requiring any treatment. However, gargling with lukewarm water with added salt, drinking warm tea eases the symptoms. Antibiotic treatment is necessary when tonsillitis results from strep.
- Asthma due to Cold
Respiratory infections like flu and colds can result in flare-up of asthma especially among young children. Asthma causes tightening of airways or bronchospasm leading to breathing difficulty, excessive mucus production and inflammation. Some of the symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest pain or tightness as well as difficulty in breathing. Covering the nose and mouth with scarf during winter season helps to reduce irritation. People with asthma should always make it a point to avoid any sort of contact with people who have common cold. Rescue medications or bronchodilators are also available to provide quick relief from asthma symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed by the doctor depending on the frequency of asthma attacks and symptoms.
- Ear Infection due to Cold
An infection in middle ear tends to show especially after common cold attacks and is extremely common among children and infants. Eustachian tube which is responsible for draining of fluids from middle ear can get blocked during common cold and the fluid tends to build up leading to infections. Symptoms of ear infection include fullness in ear, earache or ear pain, vomiting, loss of hearing and diarrhoea. Ear infections can clear up without the use of medications but, in certain cases antibiotics may be referred by the doctor. To get some relief from the symptoms its is advisable to apply warm cloth to affected area or use ear drops recommended for relieving the pain associated with ear infection.
- Sinus due to Cold
Nasal passages happen to be spaces within nose bones and when a person gets infected with sinus nasal passages turn swollen and red. The main cause behind sinus is believed to be virus that usually results in common cold. Sinus infections also result from pollution or allergies. Symptoms of this infection generally include terrible headache, pain in upper teeth or jaw or tenderness between the eyes or both sides of the nose. Thick mucus with a greenish or yellowish appearance is another usually observed symptom of sinus infection. Pain relievers and decongestants can ease the symptoms and most of the time sinus infections do not require any special medications unless, they result from bacteria.
- Bronchitis due to Cold
Bronchitis is described as inflammation of lining of the bronchial tubes that are responsible for carrying air from and to the lungs. There are 2 types of bronchitis – chronic or acute. Chronic bronchitis can stay for as long as 3 months and smoking is believed to be the main cause behind it. Acute bronchitis can be caused by common cold and stays for shorter period of time. Symptoms are similar to flu which includes fatigue, cough, chills or fever. Smokers should stop smoking immediately after being diagnosed with bronchitis. Humidifiers can be used to keep the air moist and warm which loosens mucus in the airways.
Diagnosis and Tests
Diagnosis for Common Cold
Healthy people are generally not required to visit the doctor for diagnosis of common cold as it tends to cure on its own. As there is no treatment available for common cold, the doctor can only shed more information about the symptoms of cold, advice on proper management of the symptoms and inform about how long it will last. If the immune system of the person is healthy then, the infection generally clears up within seven to ten days without requiring any treatment. However, if the person has symptoms of common cold along with the following conditions then, a visit to the doctor is absolutely necessary.
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes, asthma, heart disorders or other chronic medical conditions
- Fever accompanied with rash
- Feeling unwell (stomach pain or painful headache) and fever (100°F or higher)
- Fever which does not respond towards ibuprofen or paracetamol
- Feeling tired and less energetic as well as tendency to avoid fluids
Tests for Common Cold
Medical tests are available for detection of common viruses like rhinovirus which can cause common cold. However, medical tests are rarely conducted in case of common cold as it tends to subside without requiring any sort of medical attention. Advanced methods are available for the detection of common within a matter of few hours. Thorough diagnosis can be performed with such procedures and doesn’t take a long time unlike, some of the traditional methods of testing. The xTAG RVP helps doctors to provide their patients with appropriate treatment without the need to resort to the use of inappropriate antibiotics. RVP tests offer healthcare providers with an option to accurately and rapidly detect infections and come up with ways to treat as well as reduce its spread amongst others.
It has already been approved by the FDA and is capable of detecting around twelve viruses along with viral subtypes which causes respiratory infection to a large portion of the population. The doctor also conducts physical examination of the patient that includes checking the sinuses, lungs, ears and throat. The patient is also asked different questions related to the symptoms occurring along with their duration. In some cases doctors recommend blood test or throat culture for the patient so as to make sure that the symptoms are arising out of common cold and not some other medical condition.
Home Remedies for Common Cold
Common cold affects people during different times of a year and not just during winter season. Common cold home remedies are mainly aimed towards relieving the symptoms like runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, etc. The remedies mentioned remain same for different age groups with slight changes in method or ingredients used.
Fluid consumption in proper amounts is crucial during common cold as it keeps the mucus thin and helps it to flow freely. The body finds it easy to expel the mucus along with virus particles within it. Dehydration is also combated by proper fluid intake.
A mixture of 1/4th cup of apple cider vinegar along with 1/4th cup of honey can be prepared and kept in tightly sealed bottle or jar. One teaspoon of the mixture can be consumed every 4 hours to reduce the frequency of coughs.
Turmeric contains volatile oils and curcumin which proves quite effective against common cold. Little bit of turmeric can be added to a glass of hot milk and consumed so as to help with symptoms like cough or sore throat.
Proper rest helps the body to recover faster from common cold. While suffering from common cold, it is better to avoid daily chores as well as exercise routine and just take it easy and relax without putting too much stress on the body.
Menthol or camphor proves quite effective in children above the age of two years. There are lots of natural vapour rubs available like herbal oils, beeswax and aloe and various essential oils which can be used as symptom relievers.
Chicken soup definitely helps a lot when there is a common cold attack. Cysteines available in chicken soup helps of thinning of mucus and it also contains nutrients which are easily absorbed by the body. The fumes from the soup also help with mucus release and assist the body to fight viral invaders.
There are plenty of herbal teas available nowadays which combine the positive effects of various ingredients like ginger, pepper, clove, mint and more. Tea with bee balm, horsemint, garlic, mustard or onions also helps to get relief from common cold.
Steam from vaporizers helps with loosening of mucus and helps its flow out easily. Humidifier within the room keeps the air moist thus, assisting to keep the nasal membranes moist. If the membranes are dry, they cannot provide adequate protection towards viral invasions.
Studies have already proven that zinc is good for the immune system of the body and helps fight against common cold. It is always better to start taking zinc lozenges at first signs of common cold and keep continuing for quite a few days.
Peppers contain what is known as capsaicin which is considered to be an equivalent of guaifenesin normally found in cough syrups. Experts are of the opinion that consumption of hot foods helps to clear out the mucus from the body and avoid stuffy nose.