What’s behind the common cold?
ACHOO! Sneezing, a sore throat and a runny nose can be tell tale signs that you’re coming down with a cold. Every year in the United States, adults contract an average of two to three common colds. In fact, the American Lung Association reports that the common cold accounts for more doctors’ visits than any other condition.
While rhinovirus is the most common cause, there are more than 200 viruses that can lead to the common cold. These viruses spread through the air after individuals with the cold sneeze, cough or blow their noses. These germs then enter through our mouths, eyes and noses and can lead to symptoms such as sneezing, a sore throat, watery eyes, a mild headache, stuffy nose, coughing, mucus drip and mild body aches. These symptoms can last up to seven or ten days.
The common cold is highly contagious, especially among at-risk populations. These include infants and young children, those who have already been exposed to the cold and individuals with a weakened immune system due to health conditions. You may also be more susceptible during the fall and winter months when the common cold is more prevalent.
So, what should you do if you come down with the common cold? Rest and drink lots of fluids. The Lung Association recommends drinking at least eight glasses of water or juice a day. It also discourages individuals from drinking caffeine or alcohol, which can dehydrate the body. You may also consider taking over-the-counter medicine, such as a decongestants or ibuprofen for temporary relief from symptoms. If your temperature rises over 100.4 degrees or if you experience severe or unusual symptoms for longer than 10 days, contact your doctor or a health care professional. And finally, please remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to avoid spreading the cold to others.
If you’d like more information about the common cold, please visit cdc.gov orlung.org. Don’t forget to check back next week with Inside CTEH for Common Cold: Myth vs. Fact.