Coping With The Common Cold
Managing a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, tiredness and general discomfort is a challenge that even the worlds best athletes cannot conquer. You may be surprised to learn that there is no specific medicine to overcome the cold virus. In fact, there are multiple types of cold viruses and the most common cause is one of the 100 different types called the rhinovirus.
An old saying advocates that the common cold is treated with a week of remedies or you can wait seven days and the symptoms disappear. The studies on vitamin C have not shown clear evidence that they work, unless you are an adventure sportsman doing a marathon in the sub-Arctic region.
Not everyone with a cold can take it easy. People with health issues like diabetes or on medicines that decrease immunity should be careful and keep a watch for a fever that does not decrease or coughing with a lot of phlegm, as these are signs of a secondary infection by bacteria in the lungs.
The cold is quite common because over 25 million individuals seek care in the US for upper respiratory infections every year and about 22 million miss school because of a cold’ The rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus. parainfluenza virus and adenoviruses are common causes of the cold especially in preschool children. Some of these other viruses may cause different illnesses along with the cold-bronchiolitis or inflammation of the small air tubes by the respiratory syncytial virus or mouth ulcers with fever from the Coxsackie A virus.
Immunity is generated once a person has a cold but given the number of different varieties of each virus this does not, help much. Colds occur more in winters but they can occur at any time of the year. The infection spreads by hand contact or by inhaling droplets with the virus when someone coughs.
Sometimes, the spreading of the virus from an infected person to the hands of another person occurs within ten seconds and then onto the eyes and nose, Viruses peak in infectivity on day three which is usually the peak in symptoms. People may incubate the virus for 24-72 hours when the person is infected but do not have any symptoms.
Once infected, the body sends white blood cells to defend it. The green colour of the secretions and phlegm is not due to bacteria but due to enzymes in the white blood cells. Kids less than six years of age have an average of six-eight colds per year and older kids and adults have two-four per year. Most people have symptoms for 10 days but smokers have about three additional days of symptoms.
At times, the cold can cause other problems like ear infections, asthma and a worsening of the sinus infection. Colds can also resemble other conditions like allergic rhinitis, bacterial tonsillitis or pertussis and these need different treatment.
Symptom relief is usually adequate for managing a cold. Sometimes a special nasal inhaler may help decrease a runny nose and sneezing. Use of an antihistamine with a decongestant can also help but watch out for side effects like sedation and dryness of the eyes, nose and mouth. Generally, a cough is sell-limited and should not need any medications. Nasal decongestants should be used for only two-three days since overuse leads to paradoxical increase in nasal congestion.
Sometimes, the spreading of the virus from an infected person to the hands of another person occurs within ten seconds and then onto the eyes and nose
Zinc has shown some benefit in decreasing the duration of symptoms and severity but some preparations can cause permanent loss of smell. A lot of research in other medications is ongoing such as interferon and other herbal products. Multiple other prevention strategies have been tested and among other things, exercise as well as gargling with water may decrease cold symptoms.
We have much to do before we can say that the common cold has been conquered. Hopefully, we will have better ways to deal with the runny nose, fever, and sneezing. So, what’s the upside of a cold? Perhaps that day off from work when you can snuggle up and watch lots of TV, maybe your body’s way of saying that you need some rest. The common cold is not cool. Take care.