Health: Know more about the common cold

The common cold, also known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection, is a contagious illness that can be caused by a number of different viruses.

The common cold, also known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection, is a contagious illness that can be caused by a number of different viruses.

Because of this and because new cold viruses develop, Dr. Christian Rusangwa explains that the body never builds up resistance against all of them. Colds are thus a frequent and recurring problem.

Catching a cold
The doctors say that the disease is spread mostly by hand-to-hand contact. For example, a person with a cold blows or touches his nose and then touches someone else who then becomes infected with the virus.

Additionally, the cold virus can live on objects such as pens, books, and coffee cups for several hours. It is generally presumed that coughing and sneezing spread the virus, but these are actually very poor mechanisms for spreading a cold.

It is important to understand that going out into the cold weather has no effect on the spread of a cold disease. The reason that there appears to be a relationship is that people spend more time indoors during the cold periods.

In fact, it is the proximity to other people rather than the temperature outside that seems to be the problem. For this same reason, children in day care or kindergarten are particularly prone to having colds.

Symptoms of a common cold include nasal stuffiness and drainage, sore throat hoarseness, cough, and perhaps a fever and headache. Many people with a cold feel tired and achy. These symptoms typically last from three to 10 days.

Beating your cold

Dr. Rusangwa reveals that the major impact that we can have on the common cold is hand washing. Hand washing has clearly been shown to prevent the spread of colds.

While there is news about treating the common cold with zinc, this is not yet confirmed by adequate scientific research and its benefits remain unproven.

Vitamin C is considered to reduce the duration of symptoms from a common cold but no medical research has supported this.

Several treatments that can ease the symptoms associated with a common cold also exist. These include decongestants such as pseudoephedrine and nasal sprays such as Afrin and others can help reduce symptoms.

People with heart disease, poorly controlled high blood pressure, and other illness should contact their health care practitioner prior to using these medications.

Additionally, over the counter nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days because the nose can become dependent on them and a worse stuffy nose will result when they are discontinued.

Antihistamines such as Benadryl may help reduce nasal drainage. Only those antihistamines that can also cause drowsiness seem to work.

Again, the elderly or those individuals with other health problems such as prostate trouble and constipation should contact their doctor before using these medications.

Acetaminophen such as Tylenol, ibuprofen can help with the muscle aches. Coughs can be controlled with cough syrups containing dextromethorphan.

Finally, drink lots of fluids, use throat lozenges for sore throat, and stay in a moist environment. It is important to know that antibiotics play no role in treating the common cold. Antibiotics work against illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses cause colds.

Using antibiotics when they are not necessary has led to the growth of several strains of common bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics including one that commonly causes ear infections in children. It is important to limit the use of antibiotics to situations in which they are necessary.