Common Cold

What is the common cold?

The common cold is probably the most recognizable infection of the human body. It is a viral infection that attacks the nasal passages. It also is highly contagious, frequently jumping from one person to the next.

What are the symptoms of the common cold?

Symptoms of the common cold include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Irritated throat
  • Sneezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

How is the common cold spread?

The common cold is spread directly by hand-to-hand contact. An infected person touches his/her nose, transferring contaminated secretions to his/her hand. These secretions then get transferred to anything the infected person touches. Other people an infected person meets will potentially get infected. In addition, the virus survives for several hours outside the human body.

Does it have anything to do with exposure to cold weather?

Cold weather does not cause the common cold. It also does not cause the viruses that cause common colds to thrive. However, it does encourage people to huddle together indoors, making it easier for infection to transfer from an infected person to the next.

What is the difference between the common cold and influenza (the flu)?

It is difficult to distinguish between the two as they exhibit the same symptoms. However, in general, influenza produces more serious symptoms compared to those of the common cold. Laboratory tests are available that can distinguish between the two.

What is the treatment for the common cold?

There is no treatment for the common cold. It usually resolves within several days even without any medication. Medications given to patients are directed at relieving symptoms. Nasal decongestants, pain and fever medications, lozenges, throat sprays, cough drops and cough syrups are some of the common remedies.

When should a doctor be consulted?

The common cold resolves within several days without treatment. There may be no reason to see a doctor at all. However, if the patient exhibits more serious symptoms, it may be necessary to see a doctor. Alarming symptoms include:

  • Vomiting,
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • High fever (more than 102° F)
  • Neck stiffness
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea

If secretions become greenish, there may be a bacterial infection present on top of the common colds. This requires antibiotic therapy and a short trip to the doctor’s office, as well.

How can the common cold be prevented?

There are no vaccines available for the common cold. However, frequent hand-washing is one of the most important measures in preventing the spread of this disease.

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