Battling the Common Cold
The common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat, which usually includes a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, cough, and sore throat. Although cold symptoms can make you feel miserable for about a week, they are usually harmless. Children who are younger than six are at greatest risk of colds, but healthy adults can also expect to have two or three colds annually.
Now that it’s cold season, learn more about the common cold, how to prevent it and how to make yourself as comfortable as possible when you have a cold.
The cold and the flu are often confused for each other; however, they do have differences. If you have the flu, you may experience the following symptoms that are not associated with a cold: fever, chills, runny eyes, headache, muscle aches, weakness and tiredness, or vomiting and diarrhea. Cold symptoms, which were named above, are usually milder than those of the flu. Those symptoms usually appear one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Cold symptoms can last up to 14 days; however, older adults or adults who are smokers or have a health condition such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, or cancer tend to suffer longer when they get colds.
Preventing the common cold is not always and easy task as the virus is often spread through the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. It can also be spread by having direct contact with someone (e.g. touching their hand) or touching an object or surface that has been contaminated (e.g. a door knob or utensils). If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after you’ve been in contact with the flu virus, you have a high risk of catching a cold.
Although it may be difficult to avoid coming in contact with the cold virus, you can take the following precautions to lower your chances of catching or spreading a cold: washing your hands, disinfecting your home and personal items, coughing or sneezing into tissues, not sharing your utensils or drinking glasses, avoiding contact with someone with a cold and staying home when you are sick.
If you do catch a cold, is there anything you can do to shorten its duration? The answer is yes, but it might surprise you to learn how you can do this because it doesn’t involve any medication or help from your healthcare provider. Believe it or not, the best weapon against the common cold is our own immune system.
So what can we do to boost our immune system and have a speedy recovery? Have good nutrition, enough sleep, exercise regularly, and manage your stress levels. Following these general guidelines when you are healthy and also when you have a cold can be beneficial. When you do have a cold, drinking plenty of fluids (water, juice or broth), eating chicken soup or other warm fluids and resting can also help you be as comfortable as possible.
In most cases, you do not need to see your healthcare provider when you have the common cold. However, if you or your children have the following symptoms: fever greater than 100 (for children) and greater than 101 (for adults), fever lasting more than 2 days (for children) or 5 days (for adults), wheezing, shortness of breath, ear pain or sever throat, headache or sinus pain or any other symptoms that worsen or fail to improve, please see your healthcare provider for more information.