Cold, or the common cold, how it is often called as is the infection in the upper respiratory tract. This infection can be caused by various viruses. The viruses are spread via air, or when in close contact with the infected individuals. It is one of the most commonly occurring diseases of the world. The virus affects only sinuses, Eustachian tubes, larynx and trachea. The lungs are not affected. This is a self-limiting illness,  and more than 250 viruses are found to be causing the same. This is one disease everyone is susceptible to across the globe.

Often common cold and flu are confused. They are alike in the initial stages though, and both of them are the respiratory illnesses. The viruses causing them are different though. The symptoms can worsen slowly when it is a flu, and not a simple cold. The severity also sets apart flu and the common cold. It is essential to see the doctor when the symptoms are severe. Both the infections need time to work through the body.

Cold Symptoms:

The symptoms of a cold are similar to everyone. They appear suddenly and fade away over a period of time. Based on the symptoms the doctor decides if the condition is flu or cold, and this also helps in determining the course of the treatment. Following are the symptoms of the cold.

The nasal symptoms include:

- Sinus pressure : The pressure on the sinus is caused by the infection. This can make the breathing a bit difficult and the voice also turns nosy due to the pressure on the sinus.

- Runny nose : Runny nose is a clear symptom of cold. It is quite irritating and makes one look clumsy through the day. Additionally, a runny nose can be infectious. One tends to wipe the nose often, and when the cloth or wipes are contacted, infections are easily spread.

- Stuffy nose : One would feel a gag in the nose, and though it is not dangerous, can be called an uncomfortable feeling. This also leads to nasal tone.

- Loss of smell and taste : The pressure of sinus, and the runny nose together can limit the senses for smelling and tasting. This means the spicy food would have no effect on the taste buds.

- Sneezing : Continuous sneezing can make one uncomfortable,  and sneezing increases the chances of infection for the people around.

- Congestion : Nasal congestion can limit your ability to breathe with ease, and smell identification never takes place.

- Postnasal drip or drainage in the throat : the phlegmy drain is another discomfort caused by the common cold. This can last up to 3 to 4 days.

The symptoms in the head region include:

- Watery eyes : Watery eyes tell that common cold has taken its onset.

- Headaches : Sinus pressure and nasal congestion together can lead to the headaches.

- Sore throat : This symptom is dreaded by many for when left untreated can lead to a throat infection and pave way for a fever

- Cough : Sore throat and the drain at the back of the throat, along with nasal congestion lead to a cough. When coughs are high at nights and do not let sleep, then it can be a throat infection and needs immediate medical attention.

- Swollen lymph nodes : These can be felt with the fingers.

Symptoms apart from these include:

- Fatigue and general tiredness can be experienced as the immune system is fighting the infections and the virus

- Chills are often felt, and not very frightening. But when persist for more than a few hours, seeking medical attention is necessary.

- Fever of low grade is common when it is a common cold. But flu can mean high-grade fever. A thermometer can easily tell if it is a common cold or flu.

- Discomfort in the chest can be felt because it is the respiratory tract that is infected. This can also lead to the difficulty when one breathes deeply.

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Cold Causes:

- Viruses are the causes behind cold. They are contagious, and the infection speeds through the air. This is why a family can get infected with a common cold, even one of them is able to catch it.

- It all began in 1956, the first time when it was diagnosed. The rhinovirus, which lives in the nasal passage is the most common cold-causing viruses. The other viruses include adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus.

- When someone affected with cold or flu, sneezes or coughs, the airborne droplets cause the infection in the people around. While not all of them who are present around are affected, only the people who have a weak immune system are affected.

- Even touching around the face of someone affected with cold can lead to this infection. When the cold sufferer rubs the nose, or coughs with the hands covering the mouth, and then shakes a hand or touches others, the chances of the rest getting infected are higher.

- The infection can also be caught by touching the door knobs, cell phones, remote controls, and computers that are shared with others who are infected with a common cold.

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How is it diagnosed:

The symptoms tell that common cold is present very clearly. So, one does not have to visit the doctor for a diagnosis. In fact, most of the times, there is no treatment required. It is said often, that common cold lives for 7 days when not treated, and for 1 week when treated. Meaning that the virus is decided to stay for a week, regardless of the treatment.  When there are severe symptoms showing up, like that of the flu or a sore throat, a visit to the doctor is required. When the symptoms are worsening after 5 to 6 days, the likelihood of affected by the flu is higher. In such cases, visiting a doctor is important. The treatment for cold and flu are majorly similar, and the immediate medical attention can save time and energy.

Viruses can be treated with none of the antibiotics, and the viruses that cause cold live in the upper respiratory tract. The symptoms can be alleviated but not the infection. In healthier people, the infection may not live for more than 5 days. In people with the weak immune system, it may take longer to bid a bye.

Cold Treatment:

Most of the viruses that cause the common cold never mind the antibiotics and antiviral medications and continue to thrive. As there are treatment measures, a few things can be followed to ease the infection.

- Keeping oneself hydrated and getting enough rest is mandatory.

- Gargling with salt water helps in relieving the sore throat.

- In children, it is essential to keep them off from school to provide ample of rest, and also help to prevent the spread of infection

- Lack of appetite is common when affected by the cold. Children might find it difficult to eat anything. So, soups and smoothies can be given instead of normal food.

- Warm baths can help in easing the symptoms of cold in kids

When it comes to medication, decongestants help in alleviating the nasal congestion. Antihistamines are used to prevent sneezing. Pain relievers are prescribed to ease the fatigue and body pain. One thing that has to be kept in mind is that these medications help only in easing the symptoms and they do not cure a common cold or reduce the period of infection.

When diagnosed with blood pressure earlier, it is essential to consult the doctor as only a few of them can narrow the blood vessels.

A few food choices can ease the symptoms of common cold. They also offer the required energy.

- Chicken noodle soup:

This is a stomach-filling food. When a common cold sufferer feels it unwanted to eat, the hot soup can compensate for the need for energy. It soothes the throat and opens up the sinuses. One can feel relaxed a lot after the hot soup.

- Yoghurt:

The good bacteria present in the yoghurt can help in boosting the health of the gut. This helps in fighting the infections and viruses in the body valiantly.

- Popsicles:

The pain and the irritation of a sore throat can be eased by popsicles. Making one is easy, even when down with a common cold. A smoothie with yoghurt, fruits and juices with little sugar can help a lot.

- Hot tea:

a remedy that works for all is the hot tea. Adding ginger with tea can combat infection, inflammation and congestion. Coffee, however, is not recommended. It can result in dehydration, the last thing needed when suffering from a common cold.

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Cold Prevention :

- Prevent the spread of germs : Keeping clean and hygienic is the need of the hour when cold has to be prevented. Using a soap or sanitizer can help in killing the germs to a great extent. Gels and sprays that do not require water can be used, when there is no access to water. Even cold sufferers should wash hands before touching things that are shared, or before shaking hands.

- Healthy gut : Foods that are rich in healthy bacterium like yoghurt should be a part of the regular diet. A probiotic supplement should be taken every day.

- Keep off from infected people: When falling ill, it is best advised to keep off from coming to school or workplace. If they need to be a part of the activities, it is better to stay off from them to keep the risk of infection at bay. Washing hands after coming into contact with them help.

There is a range of risk factors that can increase the chances of catching a cold.

- Cold can affect one in any part of the year. But fall and winter are the common times for the viruses to thrive.

- Children under the age of 6 are often affected by the common cold. Children who go to daycare or school can be prone to infection.

- People who had been ill recently, or suffered chronic illness lately have a depleted immune system, and they can pick cold virus with ease.

- Chances of bumping into rhinovirus are higher in people who are among multitudes. Like at a concert or party, where many people can carry rhinovirus.

- Smoking increases the chances of catching a common cold. When smokers catch a cold, the symptoms are very severe.

- Cold and allergies:

In many cases, cold and allergies look similar for the symptoms are same. There are a few differences that can be easily watched. If the watery eyes are itchy too, then it is an allergy and not a cold. Fever is not present in an allergy, and this is especially in children. Body aches too are not present in allergies but are common when it comes to common cold. When the symptoms look similar, and the affected develops eczema, then it is an allergy and not common cold.

Cold Complications:

- Acute bronchitis is a condition when the small tubes in the lungs, called bronchi, are inflamed. This can be due to the bacterial or viral infection.

- When the lungs are inflamed, the condition is called pneumonia. This is because of the alveoli, that are filled with the fluid. This can be caused by either bacteria or a virus. The symptoms of this disease are cough, fever, and chest pain. Pneumonia is not caused by the virus that causes the common cold. This is because of the bacterial infection that can also cause the common cold.

- Acute bacterial sinusitis happens when the sinuses are affected by the infection. A headache, nasal discharge, and sinuses that ache are present. Antibiotics are needed to treat this.

- Asthma attacks are triggered by cold in children, and people who are asthmatic.


Myth #1: Cold is caused because of the weather:

The weather has nothing to do with the infection. Though fall and winter are seasons when many are affected by the cold. One can be affected by cold even during summers

Myth #2:  Feed the cold and starve the flu:

The body needs energy when it has to fight against infections. So, it is necessary to eat healthy foods, though one does not feel like eating. This food supplies energy and keeps one strong enough to fight the infection. So, eat regardless of the fever or flu.

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Last updated on : 26-10-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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