Albright College


“Gesundheit!” Do you have a cold?

Are you sneezing?  Do you have a scratchy throat?  Is your nose running?  These are all signs and symptoms of the common cold.

The common cold is made up of a group of symptoms in the upper respiratory tract that are caused by a large number of viruses.  There are more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold but the rhinovirus is the main culprit.  The rhinovirus causes 10% – 40% of colds.  The coronavirus causes about 20% of colds and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes 10% of colds. 

Colds enter your body through the mouth and nose and can easily be spread by touching people and touching common objects such as:  keyboards, computer mice, doorknobs, telephone receivers, etc.  If you are not cautious about hand washing colds can easily be spread to family, friends, co-workers and others we’ve never met.

You catch a cold from touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth or nose.  You can also catch the cold virus from secretions someone has released into the air through sneezing.

A cold begins when the cold virus attaches itself to the lining of your nose or throat.  Your immune system then sends out white blood cells to attack the germs.  Your nose and throat will start to get inflamed and produce a lot of mucus.  With your body using so much energy fighting the virus you are left feeling tired and miserable.

The common cold is usually mild but causes the most absenteeism from work and school and is the leading cause of doctor visits.

Adults tend to have 2 or 3 colds a year which can vary greatly.  Women between the ages of   20 – 30 tend to have more colds than men, possibly because they are in contact with children more often.  On average, people older than 60 tend to have less than one cold per year.  Children have an average of about 5 – 7 colds per year, mainly because they are in daycare and school and in close contact with other kids.

Common cold symptoms include itching or sore throat, sneezing, nasal congestion, watery eyes, and mucus drainage.  More severe symptoms include high fever or muscle aches; which could indicate you have the flu versus a cold.

It is important to remember that colds are caused by viruses and not bacteria.  Many people will ask their doctor for antibiotics when they are feeling their worst.  Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses so they will not make you feel any better when you have a common cold.  You will just have to treat the symptoms.

Most colds last approximately 7 – 10 days.  If you are experiencing symptoms longer you might need to contact your health care provider because common colds can lead to bacterial infections in the lungs, sinuses and ears if left untreated.

Have a safe and healthy February.

Information from this month’s tip can be found at:  http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/understanding-common-cold-basics

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