Coming down with colds happens especially frequently during the rainy season. It is an illness that can affect just about anybody, regardless of their age, gender, or lifestyle.
While this condition is not fatal, a treatment for the common cold remains elusive despite the progressive developments in medicine.
If you or a loved one is experiencing the common cold, you might find it helpful to understand the intricacies of the condition. To help you out, this article covers the most important facts about cough and the common cold, in answer to five key questions you are likely to have in mind:
1. What causes common colds?
Common colds are viral infections involving the upper respiratory tract comprised of the throat and the nose. While a cold is usually harmless, this illness may make you feel quite awful.
There are more than 200 viruses that may cause your colds, but the most common culprit is the rhinovirus. This particular strain is believed to cause 50 percent of all common cold cases. The other half is comprised of infection caused by viruses, like the respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, parainfluenza, and coronavirus.
2. How do I catch a common cold?
Despite the extensive dissemination of information on common colds, there are still many who are confused by the actual cause of this condition. In fact, one particular myth that has lots of people puzzled is the idea that getting chilly or wet can lead to a person catching a cold.
But while that particular version of the story is fiction, you must keep in mind that certain factors affect a person’s susceptibility to common colds. This includes:
Younger children aged below six years of age have higher chances of catching a cold because of their immature immune system. At this age range, children have yet to develop a resistance to viruses, so they are more prone to getting sick from them.
These younger children often come in close contact with their peers who are potential carriers of viruses, not to mention they are less likely to perform proper hygiene to avoid infection, like regular handwashing and covering up when they sneeze or cough. This is the very reason why viruses can easily spread among the said age group.
● Emotional or Psychological Distress
Based on research conducted by scientists at the Carnegie Mellon University, emotional or psychological distress can increase the risk of a person in catching a cold.
According to them, this can be due to the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for the tempering inflammation in the body. When a person is stressed, cortisol tends to work less effectively in regulating inflammatory response to viruses that cause common colds.
● Inadequate Sleep
Not sleeping enough is also a primary cause of weakened immunity. This, in turn, leads to a less effective defense system against cold viruses and other illnesses.
This is why medical professionals recommend getting the right amount of sleep according to your age range to help fight off illnesses like common colds.
For adults, seven to eight hours of sound sleep should do the trick. For teenagers, 10 hours of good quality sleep should be enough. Meanwhile, school-age children are advised to have 10 hours of sleep or more.
The bottom line is that the younger a person is, the longer he should sleep.
● Weakened Immune System
People with compromised or weakened immunity are also prone to catching a cold. This includes those who have undergone chemotherapy or an organ transplant and people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.
3. How do I know if it’s the common cold?
People with common colds are diagnosed according to the symptoms that they experience. These symptoms typically emerge between one and three days following the exposure to a virus.
These signs and symptoms can vary between individuals and may include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Mild body pain or headache
- Low-grade fever
- Malaise, or generally feeling unwell
Consulting a physician will help you get a more accurate diagnosis. In cases where bacterial infection or other medical conditions are suspected, your doctor may order additional tests, like a chest X-ray. These will help exclude other possible causes of the symptoms that may appear.
4. Can common colds be treated?
Common colds have been present since time immemorial, which is why many methods of treatment are proposed to either shorten its course or ease the severity of its symptoms. However, most of these don’t cure the disease.
Unless a bacterial infection is present, antibiotics aren’t useful for treating this condition. Treatment often comes in the form of easing the symptoms and making the patient feel as comfortable as possible.
But despite this, it is worth noting that most medicines for common colds are manufactured to achieve another primary goal: to aid the body in fighting the virus.
5. How do I manage a common cold?
Treating symptoms offers relief for people with common colds.
The key to treating a cold is getting plenty of rest. This is equivalent to getting 12 hours of sleep.
You might also find it helpful to stay in a place that’s warm and humid. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic drinks are also recommended as these can help thin the mucus so that it can be expelled easier.
For patients who experience body pain and aches with high fever, you may take over-the-counter medication to alleviate the symptoms. Medicines that provide 24-hour relief for a chesty cough can also be taken. However, you should check first if the drugs you’re about to take don’t have similar components (e.g., paracetamol in both fever and cough medicines).
Building up a strong immune system is the key to getting rid of a common cold. However, it would also help to learn the different facts about the condition to make the infection less prevalent. Make sure that you follow your doctor’s orders and seek emergency medical aid when necessary.