The common cold is an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus and spread by airborne droplets. The Centers for Disease Control reports it can be caused by any of 200 different viruses, the rhinovirus being one of the most common. Colds are easily spread when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes. You are more likely to catch it if you are in close contact with them or if you touch something that is contaminated with the cold virus.
You can usually tell when you are coming down with a cold even before the symptoms are fully manifested. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint exactly where or how you caught the cold but it’s important to start relief measures as soon as possible.
In the few days prior to the full manifestation of your symptoms, your body starts alerting you to the fact that an infection is present. You may have a feeling of general malaise, decreased appetite, scratchy throat or the sniffles. You might also have a slight cough or low grade fever. Take action as soon as you notice these early signs. The earlier you can start treatment, the better your chances of preventing a serious illness. Here are some things you can do to fight against the virus.
Get more rest
We are more susceptible to colds when we have not had enough sleep. Rest is a basic human requirement for maintaining health. Stay in bed for at least a day if possible. The body’s immune system can better fight the virus if you are not stressed or fatigued.
Increase your fluid intake
Drink plenty of liquids, especially water and fruit juices to loosen up the congestion. Drinking lemon tea with a little honey added is also good for soothing a scratchy throat.
Loosen the mucus
The virus in your nasal passages and throat can be loosened by using a saline (salt water) nasal spray. According to the Mayo Clinic, cold viruses “thrive in dry conditions”, so you need to keep your room environment as moist as possible. This can easily be done by using a cool mist humidifier. Gargling with salt water and taking a hot steam bath are also helpful ways to loosen the mucus.
Antibiotics will not cure your cold as they generally work on bacteria, not viruses. Other over-the-counter cold medications may give temporary symptomatic relief but can have side effects that might actually make you feel worse.
One thing that is often overlooked is the importance of good handwashing. You can easily pick up germs by touching a contaminated object or being too near someone who is sneezing or coughing. Carry hand sanitizer with you in case you are in an area where soap and water is not readily available. According to Sciene Daily, it has been found that using an ethanol-based hand sanitizer is more effective than even soap and water is combating the rhinovirus.
A cold will usually run its course in about five to seven days. Keeping your cold under control will help you feel better must faster. However, if your cough or fever persists more than a week, contact your doctor.
Overview of Common Cold: “Overview of common cold”
Medical News Today: “What Is A Cold? What Is The Common Cold? What Causes The Common Cold?”
Mayo Clinic: “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt”
Mayo Clinic: “Common cold in babies”