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Common Cold - An Overview

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Common Cold - An Overview

The Common cold, also known as acute coryza or acute viral nasopharyngitis, is a highly contagious illness which affects the upper respiratory tract of individuals of all ages, but is most common among children.

The common cold is caused by viruses of different types. Though primarily caused by rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, there are almost 200 types of viruses that are responsible for the common cold. Since the number and types of viruses causing common cold are so large, it is almost impossible to develop immunity against the common cold because our body can not develop resistance against all these viruses.

The symptoms of the common cold include running nose, stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing and sneezing, headache, watering eyes, fatigue and sometimes chills. A common cold usually lasts 7 to 14 days.

If certain symptoms get worse and result in a high fever, intense coughing, extreme body aches or lethargy, then it is advisable to see a physician to make sure that the cold has not become a more serious health problem such as bronchitis, flu or pneumonia.

Transmission to others

The common cold is transmitted primarily by physical contact with the virus via touching surfaces such as door knobs or telephones that have cold germs on them, or being in the path of airborne germs such as a sneeze.

A common myth is that going out in cold weather is the prime cause of common cold. This is not true. Rather it is the physical proximity that is instrumental in spreading common cold illness. In case of physical proximity the nose and eyes are the main entry points for common cold viruses. Viruses enter the nasal linings and multiply rapidly. The infection period lasts for 1 to 5 days during which a patient can infect others.

Complications

The complications arising out of common cold illness can be serious. It may lead to superinfections or opportunistic co-infections. Those can include bronchiolitis, acute bronchitis, otitis media, strep throat, sinusitis, croup and even pneumonia. Moreover people suffering from lung diseases like COPD, asthma are more prone to theses diseases. In addition, common cold may aggravate emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis.

Prevention

Avoiding physical proximity or contact with the common cold sufferer is the best method to avoid common cold. Precisely speaking, if you are a close to people with a cold, you should wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face and mouth. At the same time people around you should also avoid any physical interaction with you unless it is indispensable. Anti bacterial soaps are of no help. It is only mechanical actions like hand washing and avoiding physical proximity that really work. Some health organizations working on common cold prevention techniques have concluded that a hand gel made of alcohol is quite effective in reducing the infectious viruses on the hands of a sufferer. But like hand washing with soap and water, this alcohol gel also does not work as shield against re-infection.

Actually there are a number of viruses of different types that are responsible for cold. These viruses mutate rapidly and result in frequent change in the virus stains. Therefore the complete immunization against them is a remote possibility. Although It is true that common cold is seasonal and occurs usually in the winter season there is no evidence to prove that exposure to cold weather raises the chances of infections. One theory is that because people stay indoors more during cold weather and have more physical contact with those infected, colds are passed more frequently. There is also a counter argument which suggests that there is relationship between the humid air and the longevity of the common cold viruses during the winter season. But this conclusion is still not clinically proved.

  • Handwashing
    One good way to stay away from common cold illness is regular washing your hands with water and soap.

  • Disinfectants
    Common cold viruses may survive on your hands and other objects of your daily use. So it is always better to wash them with any good disinfectant. It may help you prevent the common cold infection.

  • A Strong Immune System
    Keep your immune system strong by getting plenty of sleep and lowering stress. Eat well, exercise and stay positive.

    There are a variety of supplements that can help bolster your immunce system as well. These include a good multi vitamin, taking Echinacea, Vitamin C and the herb Astragalus. Studies have also shown that taking one zinc lozenge per day helps prevent the common cold.

  • Take a zinc lozenge every day.
    A study of over 300 high school students found that one zinc lozenge a day prevented colds in over 60%. Amazing for an environment notorious for germ swapping.

  • Eat a container of yogurt or take a probiotic every day.
    One study from the University of California-Davis showed that people doing this had 25 percent fewer colds.

  • Public restroom germ prevention.
    Public bathrooms have lots of germs. If you worried, use a paper towel to touch the faucet and another to open the door on the way out. Even the Center for Disease Control agrees.

  • Rub your eyes with a knuckle.
    Eyes are an entry point for germs and you’re less likely to have virus germs on your knuckles than your fingers. Guess what? Most people rub their eyes or nose around 30 times a day.

  • Microwave your toothbrush.
    Put it in for 10 seconds and you’ll kill germs that can cause colds and more. Also replace it every month when you change the page on your calendar and after you've had a cold.

  • Let a bit of air in during the winter.
    Fresh air chases out germs. But don’t freeze!

  • Take a weekly sauna.
    People who sauna have half the number of colds.

  • Forget about antibiotics.
    Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, not the viruses that cause colds or flu. As a matter of fact, taking antibiotics during a cold or flu can lower your immune defense and make the problem worse or last longer.

Apart from these precautions you may also enhance your immune power to reduce the chances of infection. In this connection avoiding unnecessary antibiotics and smoking may also help you a lot. Drinking plenty of water, breastfeeding, taking zinc and eating yogurt also support your immune system and you become less prone to common cold illness. A healthy lifestyle and sound sleep may make you less vulnerable to common cold and are therefore known as the best preventive measures against common cold.

Next: Symtoms of Common Cold

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Common Cold: An Overview