American Hospital Blog

Common cold

Common cold

A common cold, a viral disease of the upper respiratory tract, affects the nose and throat. It is caused by different types of viruses and may occur to a healthy adult two or three times a year, and infants and young children can have frequent colds occurrence.

People usually recover from a cold condition within a week to ten days without requiring medical attention. For smokers, the effect may be for a longer duration.
Consult a doctor; when your symptoms don't improve or are getting worse.

Understand the symptoms

The common cold may show signs usually after one to three days of being exposed to a cold-causing virus.

The symptoms vary between individuals; people may experience sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, congestion, slight body aches, or mild headaches. The person may feel unwell, sneezing and have a low-grade fever.

Discharge from the nose begins clear and then gets thicker and yellow or green as a common cold runs through its course. But this may not indicate a bacterial infection.

Consult the doctor

Adults usually do not require medical attention; consult the doctor when the symptoms get worsened or do not improve, fever above 101.3 F (38.5 C) that lasts for over three days or reoccurring after fever recovery. Also, when you experience shortness of breath, wheezing, severe sore throat, headache or sinus pain.

Children also generally do not need a doctor's attention for a common cold. But if newborns have a fever of 100.4 F (38 C) for up to 12 weeks, or your child [any age] has a fever lasting for over two days or rising fever, other severe symptoms, like as headache, throat pain or cough, difficulty breathing or wheezing, then see a doctor. Also, if symptoms like extreme fussiness, unusual drowsiness, ear pain or lack of appetite are noticed, take the doctor's advice.

Know the causes

Many types of viruses can be the reason behind a common cold, but rhinoviruses are among the most common causes. The cold virus can enter within the body via the mouth, eyes or nose, spreading through droplets in the air from a sick person when he coughs, sneezes or talks.

It may spread from hand-to-hand contact with an infected person or sharing contaminated objects like eating utensils, towels, toys, or telephones and followed by touching your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact.

Recognize the risks

The factors that raise the risk of getting a cold include:

• Age: Infants and young children are most prone to colds, especially when they spend a long time in child care settings.
• Weakened immune system: When people have a chronic illness or weakened immune system, the risk is high.
• Seasonal elements: Fall and winter are the main seasons when children and adults are most likely to develop a cold, but people can get a cold anytime.
• Smoking: When you smoke or are nearby secondhand smoke regularly, cold attacks can be more severe and frequent.
• Exposure to the crowd: When exposed to groups like at school, aeroplanes, people are more likely to be exposed to cold viruses.

Associated complexities

Cold may accompany the following conditions:

• Acute ear infection (otitis media): When bacteria or viruses enter the place at the back of the eardrum, it causes earaches or the return of fever along with a common cold.
• Asthma: Cold may trigger wheezing, even if you don't have an asthma problem, and it may worsen for people with asthma issues.
• Acute sinusitis: Common cold can, in some cases, lead to swelling and pain (inflammation) and infection of the sinuses.
• Other infections: Common cold may begin other infections, like throat, pneumonia, and croup or bronchiolitis in children that will need medical attention.


Measures for prevention

These preventive measures can help limit the spread of cold viruses:

• You must wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for about 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with around 60 per cent alcohol. Make a habit to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Also, train kids on the value of handwashing.
• Disinfect all your stuff, clean all high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs, light switches, electronics, kitchen and bathroom countertops daily. This is useful if someone in the family has a cold.
• Make sure to sneeze and cough into tissues and then throw the used tissues immediately. When you don't have access to tissue, sneeze or cough into the bend of your elbow and do thorough handwash.
• Avoid sharing things, mainly drinking glasses or eating utensils with other family members when you have a cold, or use disposable utensils and cups.
• You must be distant from people when you have a cold and stay away from others infected with a cold. That is, stay out of crowds, whenever.
• Check the child care centre's policies to see if the child care settings offer good hygiene practices and have clear guidelines for keeping kids at home when sick.
• Take care of yourself: Eat well, get regular exercise and enough sleep to improve your overall health.

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