- an illness that is short in duration, usually less than two weeks, does not
usually produce fever, except in children. The common cold causes irritation
and drainage in any or all of the airways including the nose, sinuses, throat,
voice box, and often the bronchial tubes.
What causes the common cold?
Many different viruses can cause the common cold. Each virus may have a slightly
different pattern of symptoms and severity. Well over 100 types of cold viruses
are known. There is no evidence that cooling the body induces a cold. Infection
may be facilitated by excessive fatigue, emotional stress and other factors
that weaken the body's immune defenses. Bacteria that live in the nose and
throat can gain a foothold and cause secondary infection such as ear infections,
bacterial sinusitis and bacterial bronchitis.
Symptoms and Signs.
Colds usually begin abruptly. Throat discomfort is often first, followed by
sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion and decreased energy level. Fever is
unusual, but children and infants may have fever up to 102 degrees. Chest symptoms
are variable, and when they are present, this is commonly referred to as a "chest
cold". Mucous becomes thick. Coughing, if present, can last two to three
weeks. Green or yellow sputum or nasal secretions suggest a secondary bacterial
bronchitis or sinusitis.
The common cold can be mistaken for hay fever (allergy) or bacterial disease
such as a sinus infection or strep throat. Fever and more severe symptoms,
especially muscle aches and cough, suggest the flu. If the disease comes on
quickly, is not too severe and resolves in one to two weeks, it is usually
the common cold. Allergies usually recur and can last for entire seasons. Bacterial
sinus infections are usually limited to the nose and usually will not resolve
unless antibiotics are given. Treatment: The key to treating a cold is to make
your body comfortable while it fights the infection. Only your body's own defenses
can fight off a cold. Antibiotics don't help, though they can treat or prevent
secondary bacterial infections. Pain should be treated using Advil or Tylenol,
especially for sore throat. Nasal congestion and trouble breathing should be
treated with Sudafed or Afrin nasal spray. Afrin nasal spray is excellent medicine,
but can only be used for three or four days. Sudafed can act as a stimulant
and make it hard to sleep. Sudafed in the morning and Afrin at night is a good
combination. Runny nose can be dried up with antihistamines such as Benadryl
or Chlortrimeton. Cough should be treated with cough syrup such as Robitussin
DM. Many over-the-counter medicines are available with combinations of the
above ingredients. If possible, it is often better to take each separately,
depending on your symptoms.
Generic Ingredients to look for:
Stuffiness and nasal congestion - pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine. Phenylephrine,
Pain - Ibuprofen,acetaminophen.
Clear drainage - diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine.
What to do if you have a cold.
If it is mild and without fever, you can treat yourself with over-the-counter
medications as listed above. If you feel more ill or have fever, you should
see your doctor. Your doctor can help you be sure that all you are suffering
is a simple cold. If you have the flu or bacterial illness, the doctor can
prescribe antibiotics and anti-viral medications that will greatly improve
your recovery. Anti-virus medications only help influenza and do not help the
If you have further questions about the Common Cold, please feel free to contact
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