Sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, coughing. These are the hallmarks of the common cold. Unfortunately, it hits millions of people in a year. A cold is a viral infection which affects your throat, nose, airway and lungs. It is probably the most common illness. According to MedlinePlus, in the course of a year, people in the United States suffer 1 billion colds.
Common colds are the main reason why children miss school and adults miss work. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more. The common cold may be caused by any of over 100 known cold viruses. Most people recover in about 7-10 days.
The common cold is not the same as the flu. However, there is no cure for a cold. If you catch a cold, treat the symptoms. Read on to learn more facts about the common cold and how you can treat it.
How Do Common Cold Spread?
In general, a person becomes contagious from a few days before their symptoms begin until all of their symptoms have gone. This means most people will be infectious for around two weeks.
Transmission of colds is common in daycare and at schools. This is due to the presence of many children with under-developed immune systems and without best hygiene practices. Viruses can survive for prolonged periods in the environment, in some cases more than 18 hours.
You can catch the virus from an infectious person by means such as:
- touching an object or surface contaminated by infected droplets and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
- touching the skin of someone who has the infected droplets on their skin and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes
- inhaling tiny droplets of fluid that contain the cold virus – these are launched into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cold?
The symptoms of a cold usually develop within a few days of becoming infected. Lots of different viruses cause colds, but the symptoms are usually the same. The first symptoms of a cold are often a tickle in the throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. Others include:
- A hoarse voice
- Generally feeling unwell
- Green or yellow nasal discharge
- Loss of taste and smell
- Sore throat
- Feeling tired
- Muscle aches
- Watery eyes
How Long Does a Cold Last?
When Should You Call a Doctor?
Call your doctor if:
- You have trouble breathing.
- You have a fever of 40°C (104°F) or higher.
- Fever that lasts for more than 3 days
- Bluish skin color
- Earache or ear drainage such as in otitis media
- Difficulty waking up
What Can You Do For Common Cold?
Good home treatment of a cold can help you feel better. When you get a cold:
- Get extra rest. Slow down just a little from your usual routine. You don’t need to stay home in bed, but try not to expose others to your cold.
- Run a warm bath or use a heating pad to soothe aches and pains
- Drink plenty of fluids. This can help soothe a sore throat and thin the mucus in your nose and lungs. Hot fluids, such as hot water, tea, or soup with a lot of broth, help relieve a stuffy nose and head.
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom and take hot showers to relieve a stuffy nose and head. Saline drops may also help thick or dried mucus to drain.
- If you feel mucus in the back of your throat (post-nasal drip), gargle with warm water. This will help make your throat feel better.
- You can take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) to relieve aches.
- Use paper tissues, not handkerchiefs. Because it will help keep your common cold from spreading.
- If your nose gets red and raw, put a dab of petroleum jelly on the sore area.
How Can You Prevent Common Cold?
There are several things you can do to help prevent colds:
- Wash your hands often. Because your hands touches a lot of things.
- Clean common surfaces, such as tables, counters, toys, door handles and bathrooms. Use anti-bacterial disinfectants.
- Cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow (not your hands).
- Steer clear of anyone who has a colds.
- Keep your hands away from your face. Your nose, eyes, and mouth are the most likely places for germs to enter your body.
- Use your own things such as cup, plates, cutlery and kitchen utensils.
- Don’t share towels or toys with someone who has a cold.
- Get a flu vaccine (shot or nasal spray). It is available through flu season.
- Eat well, and get plenty of sleep and exercise. This keeps your body strong so it can fight colds.
- Do not smoke because it makes easier to get a cold and harder to get rid of one.