As winter arrives, the excitement for the most anticipated holidays; Christmas and New Year, overcomes everyone’s mind, with Christmas trees, gifts, social gatherings, shopping, and much more. Along with joy, winter also brings the common cold, also known as an acute upper respiratory tract infection. It has been estimated that approximately 1 billion Americans suffer from the common cold every year. Every year, healthcare services near Manhattan and medical centers in NYC and Chelsea report numerous cases of the common cold every year just as winter’s come around the corner.
The common cold is a viral infection that targets the nose and throat. It is caused by about 200 different viruses. The most common causative agent is rhinovirus, and it is supposed to be the reason for 50% of colds. Other than rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, coronavirus, and the respiratory syncytial virus are also known to cause the common cold. The common cold is a contagious disease and is not harmful, but the symptoms are problematic, which halt daily routines. Usually, it is cured within 10 days, if not, primary care in medical centers is needed. The human body doesn’t acquire immunity against rhinovirus because it is found in 100 different forms and this is the major reason that an adult can get 2 to 4 sessions of the common cold per year. In children, the rate of its occurrence is 6 to 8 colds annually. In the U.S. due to the common cold, absence from school and work has been noticed frequently.
SYMPTOMS AND PROGNOSIS:
The common cold is characterized by having a headache, fever, nasal congestion along with mucus draining from your nose into the throat, sore throat, runny nose, teary eyes, fatigue, restlessness, pain in the body and muscles, earache, scratchy throat due to cough, and sneezing.
If the common cold persists for more than 10 days, it can lead to otitis media, lower respiratory tract infections, and infection of the sinuses.
Children younger than 6 years, elders, smokers, and people with a depressed immune system are at risk of having a common cold.
The common cold has no cure. It usually treats itself within 10 days of its onset. It doesn’t have any vaccines for its prevention. Doctors are advised to avoid prescribing any antibiotics. According to some studies, the administration of zinc within 24 hours of the appearance of symptoms, is known to be effective to reduce the duration of the symptoms of the common cold. Along with zinc, vitamin C is also considered to cut the duration of symptoms short. Antihistamine drugs can decrease the severity of symptoms but only for a short period. Flu shots can also be given as a treatment.
WHY COLD OCCURS IN WINTER:
During the winter, infections tend to become prevalent. Viruses can survive at their best in moist weather, and when winter arrives, the cold, dull winds spread them in the environment. Winters promote the breeding of rhinovirus, as cold weather is favorable for its growth. Rhinovirus takes up the opportunity and replicates really fast in the mucous lining of the nose and throat because the lower temperature there aids rhinovirus to multiply efficiently. It is believed that during winter, the human immune system is suppressed.
As the nose has a lower temperature due to low temperature in the environment, viruses residing in the nose begin to multiply. The efficiency of the body’s viral defense mechanism decreases due to the cold, viruses resist and spread to the throat. If an individual doesn’t protect himself it can lead to ear, sinuses, and lower respiratory tract.
HEALTH TIPS TO AVOID COMMON COL
The only way to stay away from the common cold is through prevention. Here are some tips to minimize the risk of getting infected by rhinovirus during the winter.
WASH YOUR HANDS:
The common route of transmission for rhinovirus and other causative pathogens for the common cold is air. They transmit through the air and respiratory droplets. But, they also transfer through personal contact. When someone sneezes or coughs and uses their hands to cover up, viruses transfer to their hands and by personal contact transfer to the other person. The eyes, nose, and mouth are sensitive areas of the human body. Despite, being lined by mucous membranes and hair, as the first line of defense, pathogens enter the body.
Therefore, it is recommended to wash your hands more often to avoid intruding pathogens and do dry your hands through a hand dryer or use disposable paper towels, so that chances of transmission can be minimized.
USE OF SANITIZERS:
Make it a habit to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers for protection if the water is unavailable, and you are in a crowded place.
STORE YOUR BODY HEAT:
As temperature drops, people are not used to wearing warm clothes all of a sudden because they are used to dressing according to fall. This unnoticeable carelessness causes them to shiver and their immunity to slowly function. Due to decreased sunlight exposure, levels of hormones, serotonin, and melatonin affect the performance of the immune system negatively.
So, layer yourself up by dressing in warm clothes. Cover your hands, feet, and head to lock up the heat of your body.
AVOID CROWDED PLACES:
Since individuals like to be close to one another during the winter, this makes it easier for viruses to pass between individuals. Crowded trains, places with little ventilation, marketplaces with a bunch of customers, and individuals gathering for the holidays, all favor the transmission of pathogens.
Echinacea was used by Native Americans for a long time. It has been indicated that it can help boost the immune system to work effectively against bacterial and viral diseases. Echinacea is not recommended for people suffering from autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus or diseases that are difficult to eradicate like tuberculosis, AIDs, or any other progressive systemic disorder.
ZINC AND VITAMIN C:
Zinc and vitamin C can both help to increase the competency of the immune system. You can incorporate both into a daily routine before winter arrives. Both are amazing cold-busting supplements and they can even reduce the severity of common cold symptoms if administered soon after symptoms arrive.
FOODS HELP TO AVOID COLDS:
Red meat, whole eggs, and seafood can help you avoid the common cold during the winter as they contain lots of protein, minerals, and nutrition, which all help boost the immune system. Garlic daily can also reduce the frequent occurrence of colds.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, as it will be difficult for the body to fight against pathogens in the drier internal environment. If you caught a common cold by any chance, water will help you flush out the infective pathogens.
TAKE ADEQUATE SLEEP:
Lack of sleep can deprive you of energy and decreases the efficacy of functions performed by the body including defense mechanisms. It also alters your mood and your stress level can increase, eventually causing a lack of immune responsiveness.
In the winter, people become lazy and spend more time inside the house, which can have a negative impact on their health. Exercising daily will help regulate your blood flow and your white blood cells will be active to guard your body. Physical activity also increases the number of lymphocytes, which enables the body to hunt and kill viruses and bacteria.
Probiotics are good bacteria that help the body kill bad pathogens. It is a reliable source to avoid the common cold during the winter.
Keep your surroundings clean. Use disinfectants to clean every surface of direct contact like a doorknob, desk, utensils, etc.
Personal hygiene and keeping the environment clean can help prevent the spread of disease. Individuals in preventive healthcare services in Manhattan, NY should spread awareness among residents nearby and awareness programs should be arranged so that the prevalence of the common cold can be restricted.
– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More