Common Cold: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

The Common cold also called cold, is a viral infection of humans, mostly affecting parts of the respiratory system such as the nose and throat, and other surrounding structures that helps in breathing.

Disease (which beans a state of being sick or healthy) is not a condition that happens only in human beings. Infact, every other animals and plants on earth has the ability or rather the inability to maintain perfect health, hence, every living thing is prone to disease.

Although humans, through many years of research, has managed to study, understand and identify the cause and transmission of some diseases as well as the treatments that could result in a cure. Despite this, there are still certain diseases that have remained unstoppable whose cure have not been found yet. The common cold is one of such diseases.  

Table of Content

What is the Common Cold?

The Common cold as explained, is a viral infection of predominantly the nose and throat, though other surrounding structures that aid in breathing could be affected. As the name implies the common cold is a disease that is seldom rare probably because of its high rate of spread between people in possibly every country in the world mostly as a result of poor personal hygiene habits.

The common cold affects everyone and every age group and though it may seem harmless, it could get very serious especially in people at the extremes of age (like the very elderly ones and the very young ones). As harmless as the common cold seems it sometimes get irritating and could be a nuisance.

Even though it has existed for many years with numerous studies, a cure for the common cold still remains wishful thinking; because of the high infectivity rate, it’s contagious character and the fact that it’s caused by more than one virus makes it a common reminder that prevention is better especially when there’s no vaccine. Though recovery to 100% state of health is common with symptoms resolving in a couple of weeks for most people, symptoms could still be prolonged in cigarette smokers and people with a weak immune system.

common cold

Causes of the Common Cold

The common cold as mentioned earlier is caused by different viruses each with it’s own unique attributes that make a permanent treatment improbable. Of all these viruses, rhinoviruses are the most common causative agent.

Spread/Transmission of the Common Cold

With many culprits for such a common disease, it’s more to understand the various ways it is spread. The common cold can be spread by:

  • Droplets in the air after an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • Contaminated surfaces with droplets from an infected person
  • Contaminated hands after touching contaminated objects in contact with the eye, nose &/ mouth.
  • Sharing cups, spoons etc with an infected person

These means of spread are very similar to that of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) transmission.

Risk Factors for Common Cold

The risk Factors increase your chances of getting serious symptoms with the virus. They include:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to infected people
  • Poor personal hygiene

The risk Factors could predict frequency as well as severity of the disease in families and even communities.

Symptoms of Common Cold

  • Low fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Generally feeling unwell

Symptoms could get especially serious in individuals at the extreme of ages (younger or elderly persons) and also in people with a weakened immunity.

Treatment of Common Cold

The Common cold has no cure but relief of the symptoms can be achieved while at the same time trying to eat healthy to boost your immune system. If you noticed any of the above symptoms, you should see your doctor. He/she would help you with medications to relieve your symptoms and discomforts such as:

  • Anti-pyretics: to help with the fever that you might be having.
  • Nasal decongestants: to help clear your blocked nose.
  • Cough syrups
  • Antibiotics (not necessary)
  • Antihistamines

Prevention of Common Cold

While the disease has no cure as well as no vaccine, just like Covid-19, we can prevent infection with the viruses that causes common cold by:

  • Wash your hands: washing hands properly with soap and water or an alcohol based sanitizer
  • Avoiding contact with persons with a cold
  • Don’t share personal items with people with a col
  • Sneeze and cough in your elbow or use tissue papers or handkerchief
  • Ensure good personal hygiene by not using the same tissue frequently and disposing used tissue papers as well as washing handkerchiefs
  • Disinfect surfaces that hands normally get in contact with
  • Stopping habits that could suppress the immune system such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

Myths about the common cold

  • Fan causes cold: even though spinning fans have the propensity to influence the contagiousness of the common cold, there is still no evidence that fans or air conditioners cause the disease.
  • Lemon and Lime/Ginger and honey: Though different combinations of certain fruits, herbs and spices can facilitate symptomatic relief, there’s actually no evidence that they can serve as a cure.
  • Steaming/Drinking warm water: with no connection between the digestive system and the respiratory system, there’s absolutely no way that drinking warm water could serve as a cure but steaming on the other hand could provide symptomatic relief.

The common cold has been in existence for years without any cure nor vaccine, this means the most efficient means of control is prevention as well as good sanitation. Also proper education and enlightenment of young children on the importance of good sanitation and proper hygiene.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have below, and I would do my best to respond to them.

Authors

  • Osi-okeke Ugochukwu attended the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH in Ituku Ozalla, Enugu State, Nigeria

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