Common Cold Causes and Symptoms

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A cold unfortunately, is a regular occurrence often in spring and fall yet can happen recurrently in all seasons. There are many possible viruses that can cause colds however by far the worst culprit and most ordinary, is the rhinoviruses.

A cold is a viral infection of the lining of the nose, sinuses, throat, and larger airways. Spreading the infection mainly occurs when hands that are contaminated by nasal discharge come in contact with another person. When the infected substance is then transferred to the mouth, eyes or nose; (entryways into the body) the viruses make themselves at home and grow into a cold or infection.

Breathing in minute droplets of secretions sneezed or coughed into the air is another way to be infected by the virus. The most contagious time after manifestation of the cold is within the first 2 days. Many believe that going out in inclement weather and becoming chilled will cause a cold. This has not been proven to be true.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Discomfort in the nose or throat is usually the first inkling of an on- coming cold. These symptoms will be pronounced within the first 3 days. A cough, sneezing, and a feeling of malaise (not feeling well) will present itself, along with a clear discharge from the nose and a slight fever which might transpire at the beginning of symptoms. Copious, transparent secretions will take place at first, later becoming concentrated and then at last will be yellow-green. Symptoms usually go away within 10 days a cough may last a bit longer.

When airways are aggravated a cough may begin. Coughing protects the lungs and airways. It helps to remove particles inhaled or aspirated into the lungs and expels phlegm or sputum and waste out of the lungs, while coughing. Congestion in the nose may block normal discharge; these stagnated areas of congestion encourage a growth of bacterial infection in the middle ear (otitis media) or in the sinuses. Secondarily, the lower airways may develop a bacterial infection (bronchitis or pneumonia).

Normal symptoms of a common cold will determine the diagnosis by the physician. Some symptoms will go beyond a mere cold, such as, high fever, problem in breathing, rash, relentless headache, or chest pain. If a more serious development is suspected, an x-ray and blood test may be required. There is currently no effective vaccine for the common cold.

One cold producing virus is unlike another. Each virus modifies or changes somewhat, over a period of time. Because of this change it is difficult to develop a particular vaccine for the common cold. Washing hands is one of the very best remedies for preventing the infections of those around you.

It is important to cough and sneeze into a tissue, dispose of it out of the reach or touch of anyone else. Washing your hands often and cleaning objects, commonly used, such as a telephone, will help to prevent cross contamination. If you have a cold, then try to avoid the spread of infection. Rest, and if a fever along with more severe symptoms is present, stay at home. Steam vaporizers may help to manage congestion.

The warm steam is healing to the inflamed mucus membranes. Keep your system hydrated by drinking enough fluids. Vitamin C, zinc, and Echinacea in some studies are shown to be helpful. Some over the counter medications may be useful, however most physicians feel the symptoms will lessen on their own within a matter of a week.

Some of the following nonprescription drugs are used to relieve symptoms:

  • Analgesic Antipyretics: Reduce pain and aches and lower fever

  • Antihistamine: Will relieve sneezing and reduce swelling in nasal passages

  • Decongestants: Used to open occluded nasal passages. Consult your physician before taking decongestants; they are known to increase blood pressure

  • Decongestant nasal sprays: Used to open occluded nasal passages should have limited use. The sprays could have rebound congestion, which make the congestion worse later

  • Cough Suppressants: Reduce cough

  • Expectorant: Release mucus
  • Each of these drugs has side effects. Read directions and refer to your personal physician.

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