The common cold is also known as “Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (AURI)”. It is a disease of the upper respiratory tract which includes the nose and throat. It is usually not harmful; although it is very uncomfortable. Viruses are primarily the cause of the common cold. There are more than 200 viruses that are involved in causing the upper respiratory tract infections in children as well as in adults.
An acute upper respiratory tract infection is the most recurrently occurring viral infection in the world and is the foremost cause behind doctor visits. It is the common reason for student’s and laborer’s absence in school and at work. In fact, it is estimated that children in school can have 6 to 12 sessions of colds per year whereas youngsters and adults typically have 2 to 4 colds annually. It is expected that people in the United States of America suffer predictably 1 billion sessions of colds annually, with roughly about 22 million days of academic absences witnessed per year and with an economic fall of greater than 20 billion dollars per year due to work absence because of the common cold.
The common cold not only hinders studies and work but it also impedes the body’s other systems as it can lead to severe ear infection along with discharge, inflammation, and infection to sinuses and asthma. It can also cause bronchiolitis, pharyngitis, and pneumonia in children. There has been no cure discovered for the common cold. It usually remains exaggerated for 2 to 3 days and is completely cured within 10 days. If not settled down within 10 days, then visiting a primary care doctor is a must.
CAUSES OF THE COMMON COLD:
As mentioned, viruses cause the common cold, but among those, the most highlighted one is Rhinovirus. It causes the common cold in children as well as in adults. It is the reason for 30% to 50% of all adult related colds. Rhinovirus is found in more than 100 different forms. As a result, an individual will have a difficult time building immunity against it. This is the reason that the common cold is the most recurrent disease among people of all ages.
The target areas of all viruses associated with the common cold are the epithelium of the nose and throat, internal and external lining cells of any organ, and mucosal surfaces of the nose. Hence, symptoms appear related mainly to the nose and throat.
TRANSMISSION OF COMMON COLD:
These viruses transmit through respiratory droplets, air droplets, and hand-to-nose contact. Sneezing and coughing without covering your mouth and nose with a piece of cloth can directly transfer germs to people nearby. This oblivious act can spread the virus into the air and unknowingly spread the disease.
WINTERS BRING IN COLDS:
Studies have revealed that rhinovirus replicates faster and better in cooler temperatures; around 33 Celsius compared to core body temperature, which remains constant at 37 Celsius unless the body catches a fever. During the winter, the outer temperature decreases, so the temperature of the nose also decreases, but not the lungs. As a result, the nose provides the best canvas for rhinovirus to grow. The epithelial cells of the respiratory tract initiate vigorous antiviral immune responses against rhinovirus at lung temperature as compared to the nose because of decreased immune responses due to the diminished temperature in the nasal cavity.
Behavioral changes in humans because of cold and long nights have also been suspected as the reason for spreading the common cold in winter. People prefer spending time inside their comfy houses with the windows closed. This makes the transmission of viruses easier as everyone is in close contact with one another and respires in the same environment. So, if anyone develops the virus, it takes no time for it to spread to another person.
The common cold is represented clinically as hoarseness of voice due to persistently coughing because of a sore and scratchy throat, runny nose with clear transparent discharge which later becomes yellow or greenish in color, sneezing, low-grade fever associated body aches, headache, earache, fatigue, watery eyes and loss of appetite.
Immunosuppressant people are more prone to the common cold. People of all ages are susceptible to this illness but infants, children younger than 6 years and elders are more likely to entrap by the virus. Cigarette smoke can also elevate the chances of getting the common cold. People living in close proximity with one another can also easily develop the common cold.
DOCTORS’ HEALTH ADVICE FOR PREVENTING THE COMMON COLD:
It is always better to take precautions before developing any disease. The common cold doesn’t have any vaccine for prior protection. But it has a treatment called the flu shot. Hence, it is important to make cautious attempts to prevent the illness and should know all about preventive measures before the cold season arrives.
According to primary care doctors, the most important thing is to maintain personal hygiene. It includes washing or sanitizing hands after using the washroom, before every meal, before cooking food, and after coming into contact with a person who is suffering from a cold. It is always better to avoid contact with a person who has a cold. If someone develops a cold, try not to touch their nose or eyes as it will transfer the virus to your hands, and from there, transmit it to another person. Sneeze or cough on the elbow with a piece of cloth or tissue. Making sure one’s house is properly cleaned is also another way of preventing a cold. Proper cleaning is required and all surfaces that may have direct contact with people should be cleaned with disinfectant. Parents should emphasize to their kids the use of hand sanitizer gels frequently and they themselves should use it on a regular basis, especially in public places. People should get adequate sleep, and eat healthy foods, especially foods that can boost the immune system. Smoking should be avoided as it destroys the cilia lining; the epithelial cells of the respiratory tract. Exercising daily in the fresh air can help prevent the disease. Use probiotics as it will strengthen the immune system and prevent the common cold. Zinc and vitamin C can also help to prevent it.
One can develop a cold regardless of their age. Therefore, people should be aware of this illness and its prevention. For this, primary health care bodies across the U.S. should take measures to elevate awareness in this regard.
– 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