Basic Understanding of Common Cold

The common cold caused by a lot of different viruses in upper respiratory tract and consists of variety of symptoms.  Medical community estimate more than 200 viruses cause the common cold but rhinovirus is the primary virus for 10% to 40% of the colds followed by coronaviruses with about 20%.  The other main virus is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that causes approximately 10% of colds.

Even though the common cold is generally mild, it’s a primary reason for visits to the doctor and missed days from school and work. In accordance with the CDC, students miss about 22 million school days a year in the U.S. due to the common cold.

How do you get a common cold?

A person gets a cold from someone else that has contracted the cold virus. This generally happens by coming in contact with an object or surface area such as table, phone, hand shake or keyboards for instance contaminated with cold germs -after which you touch your mouth or nose.  You can even catch a cold when someone talks, sneezes or cough into the air and you come in contact with the droplets and secretions.

The process begins when cold virus connects to the lining of your nose or throat. The immune system directs white blood cells out to attack this germ. Unless you’ve had that exact strain of the virus before, the first immune response fails and your immune system sends in reinforcements. Your throat and nose get inflamed and create a a lot of mucus. You feel distressed and tired because your body’s energy is focused on fighting the cold virus.

Being in cold or wet weather is not the reason to catch a cold but there are factors which make you more vulnerable.  For instance, While getting chilled or wet is not a cause of common colds, there are factors that make you more vulnerable to catching a cold virus. For example, you’re more prone to catch a common cold if you’re overly tired and exhausted, have emotional distress, or have nasal allergies.

What are the symptoms of a common cold?

You may experience the symptoms of cold within 1 to 3 days after contracting a virus. Symptoms consist of:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches or a mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild fatigue

As cold runs its course, the secretion from your nose may be green or yellow and possibly thicker.  You probably won’t have high fever and major fatigue from a cold virus.  Click here for more information about cold symptoms.

Check out this video for some information about common cold

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When do you go to doctor?

coldIf you’re an adult you need to see a medical professional when you experience:

  • Fever of 103 F (39.4 C) or higher
  • Fever combined with sweating, chills and a cough with colored mucus
  • Substantially inflamed glands
  • Major sinus pain and discomfort

It’s more common for children to get cold and develop other complications.  You don’t need to take your child to doctor for regular cold but take your child to a physician when you see these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks
  • Fever that increases frequently above 104 F (40 C) in a child of all ages
  • Indications of dehydration, for example urinating less often than normal
  • Not drinking adequate fluids
  • Fever that lasts over 24 hours in a child younger than 2
  • Fever that lasts over 72 hours in a child over the age of 2
  • Vomiting or stomach pain
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
    Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent crying
  • Ear pain
  • Persistent cough

On average children catch a cold five to seven times a year.  Children spend a lot of time with other kids in school and day care and are close contact with each other so they contract the virus from another kid.  They also have a weaker immune system to deal with the virus.



Mayo Clinic

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