The Common Cold: Symptoms, Prevention and Remedies
posted by Family Medicine | March 20, 2017
There are millions of cases of the common cold in the United States every year, with an average of two or three every year among adults and even more among children. In fact, they’re the most frequent reason for absences from school (in kids) or work (in adults).
What causes the cold, what are its effects, and how can it be prevented and treated? Here’s a look.
Causes and Risk Factors
The common cold can be caused by a number of different types of viruses, with the most common of these known as rhinovirus. The cold is spread through droplets in the air that come from the mouth of a sick person (through sneezing, coughing or speaking) or through physical contact, and can enter a new body through the mouth, eyes or nose. It can also be spread through contaminated objects touched by people who are sick, and passed on to someone who isn’t.
There are several factors that can increase your chances of coming down with the common cold:
The symptoms of a common cold usually show up about one to three days after you’re exposed to a virus, and they are different for each individual. Symptoms can include:
Most of the time, these symptoms go away in a week to 10 days with some basic treatment and proper rest. However, the common cold can lead to certain complications, such as ear infections, asthma attacks, sinusitis or other infections. If you or your child experiences any of the following symptoms, see a doctor immediately:
Because the common cold can spread so easily, taking preventive measures is the best way to keep yourself from getting one. There are several habits you should adopt, especially during colder months when the cold is more common:
Most of the treatment for the common cold involves limiting symptoms. There is no cure, and antibiotics don’t work because the cold is a virus rather than a bacteria. Pain relievers can help for any discomfort (there might be certain limitations for children), and decongestants can help adults with nasal symptoms for up to five days. Some adults also take cough syrup.
In addition, there are many popular home or alternative methods many people use to make themselves more comfortable during a cold. There isn’t scientific proof that these methods actually reduce the length of the disease, but many people find them helpful for comfort and pain relief.
“Common cold.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/home/ovc-20199807
“Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.