The Common Cold
You are already infected with a cold 2 to 3 days before symptoms begin.
There are more than 200 different viruses that can give you the common cold.
The common cold usually occurs during the fall and when cold weather begins in the winter months. This time period usually begins in late August or early September and remains high until March or April, when the chance of catching a cold becomes smaller.
Children usually have about 6 to 10 colds a year, but they can have as high as 12 colds a year due to close contact with each other in daycare centers and in schools.
Adults usually have about 2 to 4 colds or more a year, and women usually have more colds than men because of their close contact with children, especially women between the ages of 20 to 30 years old.
Adults older than 60 years of age usually have 1 cold or less a year.
The temperature inside the human nose is about 91 degrees Fahrenheit, the perfect temperature for the rhinovirus that causes an estimated 30 to 35 percent of all adult colds and are most active in early fall, spring, and summer. Scientists have identified more than 110 distinct rhinovirus types.
Usually coronaviruses cause a large percentage of all adult colds. There are more than 30 kinds of coronaviruses, but only 3 or 4 infect humans with colds, primarily in the winter and early spring.
How to Catch a Cold
- Touching anything that has cold germs on it and then touching your eyes or nose. Rhinoviruses can live up to 3 hours on your skin and on objects such as telephones, stair railings, door knobs.
- Inhaling (breathing in) drops of mucus full of cold germs from the air.
How Not to Catch a Cold
- Keep your hands away from your eyes and nose.
- Wash your hands with soap and water!! It’s the simplest and one of the most effective ways to keep from getting colds or giving them to others. Wash your hands often during the cold season, and teach your children to do the same. When water is not available, use alcohol-based products made for disinfecting your hands. Travel size products work great when you are away from home.
- Avoid being close to people who have colds, and if you have a cold also avoid close contact with people.
- Sneeze or cough into your elbow rather than your hand.
Cleaning environmental surfaces such as telephones, stair railings, and door knobs with a virus-killing disinfectant might help prevent the spread of infection.
Symptoms of the Common Cold
Symptoms of the common cold can last from 1 to 2 weeks. Most people feel better and recover in a week. Cold symptoms can include:
- Runny nose.
- Stuffed up nose – difficulty breathing through your nose.
- Mucus buildup in your nose.
- Swelling of your sinuses.
- Sore throat.
- Scratchy throat.
- Watery eyes.
- A slight fever – can climb to 102ºF in infants and young children.
Note: You could possibly have an allergy rather than a cold if symptoms come back often or last much longer than 2 weeks.
Treatment of the Common Cold
There is no cure for the common cold!! You can get some relief from your cold by:
- Resting in bed.
- Drinking plenty of fluids.
- Gargling with warm salt water or using throat sprays or lozenges for a scratchy or sore throat.
- Using petroleum jelly for a raw nose.
- Taking aspirin or acetaminophen for headache or fever – Tylenol, for example. Warning: Children and teenagers should not be given aspirin or medicine containing aspirin when they have any viral illness such as the common cold because of a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome that usually occurs in children between the ages of 3 and 12 years.
- Over-the-counter cold remedies such as antihistamines, decongestants and cough suppressants may ease the symptoms of a cold for a few hours but will not prevent or shorten the length of your cold. And most of these medicines have some side effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia, or upset stomach, so you should take them with caution. Read directions carefully.
- There are many unproven prevention methods for the common cold that people try such as echinacea, vitamin C, honey, and zinc.
The common cold is caused by viruses… and antibiotics (prescription medications from your doctor) do not kill viruses, so don’t take antibiotics for a cold.
Inhaling steam may temporarily relieve symptoms of congestion from a cold, but experts have found that the steam approach is not an effective treatment.
When to See Your Doctor
- High fever.
- Severe sinus pain.
- Significantly swollen glands.
- A cough that produces mucus.
- If a cold causes a bacterial infection of your middle ear or sinuses, which would require treatment with antibiotics from your doctor.