Common Cold: Meaning, Symptoms and Its Effects On Health

Common Cold: Meaning, Symptoms and Its Effects On Health

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As much as it is not anyone’s prayer or happiness to be in sickness. They are some slight ills we experience due to the seasons of nature. Currently in Nigeria, we are experiencing the rainy season which is characterized by large amount of rainfall leading to symptoms such as common cold, cough, catarrh, etc. Nigeria, which experiences an average precipitation (that is, cloud formation) in depth as measured by the World Bank in 2011 at 1150 (mm per year). The variety experienced in this country in weather and seasons led to the inquiry of a rampant illness – the common cold. Some have been longing to know what the causes, symptoms and prevention are, while others have wondered if common cold is actually different from influenza or if they are the same.

The Meaning of Common Cold

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Common cold is a mild infection caused by several viruses (over 200) but majorly by a virus called “rhinovirus”. It is an infection which affects the upper part of the respiratory tract, nose, throat and upper airways. It is usually common among people of different age groups, from infants to teenagers as well as adults. No wonder the name “common” attached to the cold. The predominant causative virus – rhinovirus which have been found out to cause about 10% to 40% of colds, thrives in environments with relative low humidity (which may account for rainy season most often), but, common cold may be contracted any time of the year.

This virus is responsible for the sneezing and sniffle people experience and the fact that it is highly contagious, hence, the name “common” which accounts for the findings of the Center for Disease Control, United States that about 22 million school days are lost annually among students due to common cold.

Differences between Common Cold and Influenza

Common cold is different from influenza (flu) in that, symptoms of common cold may last from days to a week, it easily resolves and in most cases do not result in any serious health complication. The symptoms of common cold are experienced gradually, majorly affecting the nose and throat and as mentioned earlier, they are milder and able to bear till the symptoms disappear.

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On the other hand, influenza (flu), which have similar symptoms with the common cold but can last for weeks and can lead to other health complications such as pneumonia, its symptoms are quickly expressed and may usually include headache, fever, aching muscles and can make one “homesick” (that is unable to go out for other activities).

Symptoms of Common Cold

After a few days of contracting the common cold, its symptoms begin to surface;

  1. 1.Sore throat

This symptom starts mildly and may sometimes cause slight pain while swallowing or have slight effect on the way one talks, that is, hoarse voice. It is at time like this that many people turn to different form of menthol containing “sweets or candy” which will then seem like they just fought a boxer by the obvious sight of a swelling at the side of their cheeks (as they have the candies in their mouth to treat the symptom)

  1. Blocked or runny nose

This may cause slight difficulty in breathing and actions as applied to sore throat treatment are carried out by several people. Blocked nose may be bad for an infant and such symptoms needs to be quickly addressed, while in adults, it may make one who is not used to snoring appear to do when he tries to breath appropriately from the less blocked nose or through the mouth.

  1. Cough

Cough is a common symptom for so many form of illness. It should be therefore noted that not just one symptom concludes the diagnoses of what is wrong. Of course, a doctor or physician should be met for proper and accurate diagnosis.

  1. General feeling of “Unwellness”

Just like the saying that says “when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers”, the body, in response to trying to fight off the viruses causing common cold, releases antibodies indicating that something is wrong and that there is a foreign substance in the body. This may result in the overall feeling of “unwellness”.

  1. Other Symptoms

There are some less common symptoms which may be experienced by individuals depending on our uniqueness and body make up. These are high body temperature, headache, muscle pain, loss of taste or smell (of course with a blocked nose, how much can you smell?), mild irritation of the eyes, etc.

These symptoms may reach their peak in the first 2 to 3 days before they gradually begin to improve. However, the length of time the symptoms persist in younger children (10 to 14 days) is different from in adults and other children (7 to 10 days).

Some Methods of Transmission

Just like the mode of transmission of many diseases (read more about diseases here), common cold may be contracted days before the symptoms begin to surface, you may get a symptom today and begin to think perhaps it was because of a particular interaction with someone that day meanwhile it may be as a result of an encounter several days ago. The various mode of transmission are:

  1. 1. Inhalation

A person can contract the disease when an infected person sneeze or coughs and the tiny droplet of fluid are being inhaled. To avoid this, it is important  to cover the  nose and mouth when you sneeze, cough or when a cold patient, who is  close to you sneeze or cough as not to share in the “blessings” of common cold.

  1. Body contact

An individual is open to the risk of common cold if there is body, hand or a close contact with someone that  has the infected droplets on his or her skin. This gets worse when the infected hands are put directly into the nostrils or mouth. Thus, there is a great need for good personal hygiene.

This is when an uninfected person touches surface(s) which contain droplet of infected fluid and then touches the nose or mouth.

With these modes of transmission, there is no gainsaying why the disease got its infamous name “common cold”. The question then beckons, since this disease is just as ubiquitous as the air we breathe, how can it be treated or prevented?

Prevention of Common Cold

The following are the ways of preventing common cold;

  1. Evasion

We should as much as possible to avoid those who exhibits the symptoms, although, not as stigmatization or total segregation, just so as to avoid the various means earlier stated as mode of transmission. Encourage and cultivate the habit as well as use of tissues when you cough or sneeze. This will help prevent the fluid droplet from falling on surfaces that may infect others. The tissues used should be well disposed.

  1. Proper Sanitation and Hygiene

Good personal hygiene(read more about personal hygiene here), proper and regular washing of hands with soap and water especially after touching mouth or nose before eating or handling food. Practice cleanliness of surfaces in your homes and environment. Do not share utensils, towels, toothbrush, etc. with someone.

Treatments of Common Cold

There is no particular cure per Se for common cold. But, some basic treatment may be carried out which may make the cold leave on its own without even taking medicines. Few of basic treatments practiced include;

  1. Drugs and Medications:

Over-the- counter drugs such as decongestants, paracetamol, ibuprofen and other forms of painkillers can be used to relieve congestion, fever, aches and other forms of symptoms.

  1. Healthy Diet

Taking good and healthy food especially fruits rich in Vitamin C (read more about food here) may help in reducing the symptoms. Also, drinking a lot of water or fluids is also advised.

  1. Rest

As applied to most illnesses(read more about illness here), when there is an offset in one part of the body, even when you take medications, there is the need to rest appropriately, this helps to build or renew the immune system to help fight against the disease.

As a form of recommendation, it is essential to note that some symptoms of this disease may lead to some complications (especially in the cases of flu) such as sinusitis, chest infection, etc. Once any of these complications are observed, it is advised to see a doctor or physician immediately. Situations when you need to consult the doctor are; when the symptoms persist for more than 3 weeks, difficulties in breathing or when symptoms suddenly get worse. Also, make sure that appropriate diagnosis is done so as not to confuse common cold with any other form of illness.

Wish you luck

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