We have a “common cold” running through our family right now.  Here is the deal just when one person finally starts to feel better it hits the next member of the family.  So one small simple cold ends up being a battle that is fought for over a month in our family of four.

Is there anyway to circumvent the madness?  I looked into the basic facts of the common cold and unfortunately it is so easily spread and usually hangs around for a week to ten days for each person there isn’t a lot of hope.

A common cold is a virus infection of the upper respiratory tract; your nose and throat.  The average adult should expect 2 to 3 colds per year.  Kids get even more colds per year than adults.  So if you live with children you will be exposed to more colds than if you don’t.  The average cold infection lasts between 7 to 10 days.

 

Here are the Common Cold Fast Health Facts:

Symptoms:

  • Congestion- runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing
  • Low grade fever
  • Sore throat, tickly throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Body aches

 

Causes:

Rhinoviruses are the most common cause of the cold.  There are over 200 varieties of the common cold.  A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose.

Colds are spread by contact from infected people.  You can catch a cold through contaminated objects or from someone with the virus through droplets in the air from a cough or sneeze or just from talking to them.

 

Risk Factors:

Age – The young and the old are the most vulnerable to catch a cold.  Children in child care settings are also at greater risk.

Season – Believe it or not but the time of year has something to do with catching a cold.  You can catch a cold at any time of the year however, you are least likely to catch a cold in the summer.  Chilly weather does not seem to increase the risk of a cold.  It has more to do with being indoors around others that increases your exposure risk.  Heated air from your furnace lowers humidity which dries nasal passages making them more susceptible to cold viruses.

Medical Conditions – Pregnancy, asthma, diabetes and heart disease also raise your risk of catching a cold.  Anyone with a compromised immune system is more at risk for catching a cold.

 

Complications:

Colds can lead to other infections.  Secondary infections to watch for are ear infections, sinus infections, asthma, pneumonia, croup, strep throat, or bronchitis.

Watch for symptoms worsening rather than getting better.

A fever over 101 F for an adult that lasts for more than 3 days.

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing is another sign to watch for.

Be aware of any ear pain or sore throat pain.

For an infant watch for extreme fussiness, unusual drowsiness or lack of appetite.

For a child a fever lasting more than 2 days.

See a doctor if your symptoms last for longer than 10 days.

 

Treatment:

Viruses that cause the common cold can not be treated with antibiotics.  You need to find over-the-counter solutions to deal with your symptoms.  You may have to try and couple of different products to see what works for you.

Take Ibuprofen or Tylenol for aches and any fever symptoms you may have.

Rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Gargle with salt water for a sore throat.

Add humidity to your air.  Warm wet steamy air from a bath or shower can also help.

 

Prevention:

Wash your hands frequently.  Washing your hands with soap and water is the recommended way to rid yourself of germs.  You can use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Disinfect.  Wipe down everything with a disinfectant spray or wipe.  If you share hand towels in the bathroom, wash those in hot soapy water.  It may be a good idea to use paper towels for a bit in shared bathrooms to avoid the spread.  Disinfectants can kill common cold viruses.  Rhinoviruses may survive up to 3 hours outside of the nasal lining.

Don’t share toys, food, utensils or drinking glasses.

Eat well, get sufficient sleep, exercise.  A healthy body has a good immune system.  Your immune system is your first line of defense against infections.

Stay home.  Try to avoid infecting others by staying home.

 

Takeaway:  

Expect to get 2 to 3 colds per year.  And just know that for a possible 30 days you are going to feel terrible each and every year.  Learn and record what over the counter medicines work for you and your family members.  Watch for complications.  If you notice complications make an appointment with your health care provider.

 

 

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