Common colds regularly affect both adults and children and are more likely to occur during the months of fall or winter. Common colds refer to an infection of the upper respiratory tract and are caused by a virus. There is no known cure for the common cold, and treatments are generally aimed at providing relief from the symptoms.
Most colds however tend to disappear on their own in five to seven days. If your cold lasts longer than that and the symptoms do not reduce over time, consult your doctor, as it may be an indication of a more severe medical condition.
Symptoms of Common Cold
A few days after the cold virus enters the body, symptoms become evident.
Different people may experience different symptoms for a common cold and these symptoms may range from mild to severe and can last for a few days to several weeks. These include:
- Running nose (discharge may change from clear and watery to thick and yellow or green as the infection increases)
- Stuffy nose
- Watery eyes
- Sore or hoarse throat
- Mild or hacking cough (with or without phlegm)
- Low-grade fever
- Body ache
Causes of Common Cold
The common cold is caused by a number of different viruses. The most common viruses are the rhinoviruses and the coronaviruses. There are nearly 110 different types of rhinovirus that are responsible for more than 30% of all colds. There are nearly 30 different types of the coronavirus though only three or four of these strains affect humans. Adults are more affected by colds caused by the coronavirus.
You can get a cold by making direct contact with another infected individual (shaking hands, kissing etc) or touching a surface that has been handled by an infected individual, resulting in contamination (telephones, books, laptops etc) and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth. The virus then enters your body and you soon develop symptoms of a cold. Colds are also transmitted through the air when a person sneezes or coughs.
Risk factors that increase your chance of catching a cold include:
- Children are more susceptible to colds especially those who attend day care and are in contact with other children who may be infected
- Children whose parents smoke
- People exposed to toxins such as pollutants, toxic fumes, etc.
- People with weak immunity including those who have HIV, AIDS, or cancer
- High stress levels
- Certain medications such as corticosteroids
Remedies for Common Cold
The main goal of any treatment for common cold is to improve your symptoms and provide some quick relief. Since a virus causes the common cold, antibiotics do not help. Remember that any medications for a cold (especially for young children) should be consumed only after consulting with your doctor. The more popular medications for a cold are decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants or expectorants and pain relievers.
Herbal remedies for cold relief have been used since ancient times. However, never begin any herbal treatment without checking with your doctor first, as many herbs react badly with conventional medicines. Some herbal cures include:
- Echinacea Conclusive evidence is still required about the effects of Echinacea on colds. However, recent research seems encouraging and states that Echinacea may help some people reduce their risk of getting a cold as well as reduce the duration of their colds significantly.
- Eucalyptus Steam inhalations using a few drops of eucalyptus oil in hot water can help loosen phlegm and reduce a sore throat and congestion.
- Peppermint Peppermint contains menthol, which works as a decongestant, expectorant and helps thin mucus and cures a cough. Peppermint oil should be used with another neutral oil, and should never be used directly on the skin or ingested.
Other popular home remedies for a common cold include the following:
- Gargle with hot water and salt to relieve a sore or hoarse throat.
- Drink ginger tea throughout the day, as ginger acts as a natural decongestant and also helps with pain relief.
- Sip on a cup of warm milk mixed with a pinch of turmeric and honey to soothe a bad throat and other cold symptoms.
Diet for Common Cold
Apart from medications, eating healthy has always been an easy and safe way to relieve symptoms of a cold. Some suggestions for a diet for common cold are:
- Include foods that are high in antioxidants and vitamin C such as fresh fruit and vegetables to boost your immunity. This will not only help fight a cold but may also prevent it from recurring.
- Foods high in vitamin B complex can also help relieve symptoms of a cold.
- Avoid heavy foods that are high in starch, and foods that are spicy, oily, deep-fried and processed.
- Food rich in zinc such as oysters, pork, crab, nuts, yogurt and milk also help reduce the intensity of cold symptoms.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep your body hydrated and help flush out the toxins. In addition to at least eight to ten glasses of water daily, you should have fresh fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups or broths. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine as they work as diuretics and dehydrate the body further.
- Lemons should be consumed in the form of lemon juice mixed with hot water and honey to soothe a sore throat and boost your vitamin C intake.
- Peppers, mustard, onions, and horseradish that make your nose run and your eyes water are good foods for a cold. Many believe that this can help loosen mucus and thereby help to reduce congestion. The verdict is still out on the efficacy of this theory, but a little hot stuff added into your diet doesnt hurt when you are nursing a cold.
- If your cold causes diarrhea and other digestive problems, add eggs, mashed potatoes, bananas and cooked fruits to your diet.
Other foods that may help relieve cold symptoms include:
- Whole grain toast
- Orange juice
- Chicken or vegetable soup
- Green salads
- Steamed vegetables
- Decaffeinated tea
Suggestions for Common Cold
There are some other simple suggestions to prevent a common cold such as:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Exercise often to improve your overall health
- Explore options such as yoga and meditation to reduce stress levels
- Do not share towels, dishes and glasses
- Get enough sleep
- Roberta Lee, Michael J. Balick, Flu for You? The Common Cold, Influenza, and Traditional Medicine, EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, Volume 2, Issue 3, May 2006, Pages 252-255, ISSN 1550-8307, 10.1016/j.explore.2006.03.009.
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