Common Cold: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, and  Prevention Suggestions

Common cold: Definition

A “cold” is an upper respiratory viral illness that can affect the ears, sinuses, throat, chest, and skin, causing a variety of symptoms. One of the hundreds of viral strains causes infection. Colds are caused by a variety of viruses, including Rhinoviruses, Parainfluenza viruses, Coxsackie viruses (hand, foot, and mouth disease), Adenoviruses, Echo viruses, and Respiratory Syncytial Viruses.

What causes it?

The common cold is caused by a virus, which is a small germ. Viruses are so little that they can pass through fine filters that would stop larger organisms like bacteria from passing through. Cold sufferers have a large number of these viruses in their noses and throats. Coughing and sneezing release little droplets that are transmitted from person to person. They can also be spread from person to person after coming into contact with infected noses and eyes.

Cold viruses infect the nose, throat, and lungs with little or no fever in most cases. The amount of symptoms experienced by individuals varies. A typical cold can be caused by over 100 different viruses. At any given time, there may be more than one strain circulating in the community.

Colds go by a variety of names, including upper respiratory tract illness and “the flu” (although it is not the same as true influenza). Other names refer to the diseased body component, such as the eyes (conjunctivitis), nose (rhinitis), sinuses (sinusitis), throat (pharyngitis), voice box, or larynx (laryngitis), and air tubes (bronchitis) (bronchitis).

At different seasons of the year, certain respiratory viruses circulate in the population. The rhinovirus is a very prevalent virus that causes the majority of colds. It can induce croup in youngsters, as well as a bothersome disease dominated by cough in adults. In the spring and autumn, other viruses circulate in the population. They normally cause minor common cold symptoms, but they might escalate to more serious diseases and respiratory difficulties.

Who gets a cold these days?

In the winter, more than half of us have a cold, and more than a quarter of us catch one in the spring. Colds can affect schoolchildren and those who work in hospitals six to twelve times per year. In a typical year, parents or families with young children in daycare, pre-school, or primary school suffer six colds. Colds may strike older individuals who do not interact with children twice or three times a year.

Women Sneezing

How do you catch a cold?

Colds are caused by a virus that is passed from one infected person to another. Mucous membranes allow viral secretions from a cough, sneeze, or even hand-to-hand contact to enter your body (eyes, nose, mouth). Shaking hands, kissing, opening doors, working out at the gym, exchanging phones/food/drinks, handling money, or being near an unwell student in class, on the bus, or at a bar/party are all easy methods to transfer the virus. People are more likely to develop colds indoors during the winter months when living conditions put people closer together and expose them to each other’s cold viruses. Closed windows and a lack of fresh air appear to be contributing factors. Susceptibility may also be increased by fatigue, poor health, some indoor air pollution, and stress. Colds are not caused by cold weather, shivers, or exposure to the cold. Scientists are immune to colds in the Antarctic until they return home.

Symptoms of the cold

Symptoms of the common cold usually occur one to four days after the virus enters the body. Even before symptoms show, the cold can spread to others. An itchy or painful throat is frequently the first symptom. A stuffy, plugged nose, sneezing, and watery eyes soon follow. Other symptoms such as a runny nose, husky voice, muscle aches and pains, and headache may appear within two days. Fever is common in youngsters, but it is uncommon in adults. The symptoms progressively improve after that.

Is it possible for a cold to be dangerous?

The majority of colds will go away in about a week. Some colds can lead to the development of other ailments. When your defenses are compromised, bacterial infections may gain the upper hand. lung diseases, such as asthma, COPD/emphysema, bronchiectasis, and cystic fibrosis, put people at a higher risk and should be regularly watched.

Can a cold be cured?

Current medicines cannot cure a simple cold; the body heals itself! Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria and have no effect on the cold virus, therefore they should be avoided. Antihistamines and decongestants help to alleviate congestion in the nose, sinuses, and ears. Paracetamol can help with muscle aches and pains as well as lowering fever. When your nose is plugged, nasal decongestant sprays can help. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, long-term usage of these drugs is not suggested.

Throat lozenges are widely available, with many containing menthol or eucalyptus. They are not appropriate for small children. If you have asthma or COPD/emphysema and your symptoms have worsened, consult your doctor right once. So you’re ready for the next time you have a cold, ask your doctor about an Asthma Action Plan or a COPD Action Plan. 

Is there anything further that can be done?

Keep a safe distance from somebody with a cold, especially if they cough or sneeze. Use a disposable paper tissue to cover your coughs and sneezes. Hands should not be touched to the nose, and hands should be washed often. Keep your nose, throat, and air tubes wet by drinking fruit juice or water. This saves energy and may help you prevent problems. A few days of bed rest may help to lessen the duration and intensity of a cold.

Other well-known cold treatments Because of its association to a dangerous condition called Reye’s syndrome, aspirin is no longer recommended for colds or influenza-like symptoms in children. Aspirin can cause gastric bleeding in adults on rare occasions. Vitamin C can not prevent colds, but it may help to alleviate the symptoms once they have developed. A daily intake of one gram has been advised. Common cold vaccinations are now ineffective due to a large number of viruses present, but recent scientific breakthroughs in this sector may make this a viable option in the future.

When should you contact your doctor?

If you have any of the following symptoms with your cold, you should consult your doctor:

1. Within 7- 10 days, the symptoms have not improved.

2. Fever >100o for more than 3 days Persistent,

3. Experiencing severe ear discomfort or a discharge from the ear

4. Tonsils that are enlarged, causing choking, altering/thickening your voice, or coated with a thick secretion.

5. Have trouble opening your lips wide 

6. Having a severe headache, stiff neck, or a rash

7. Diabetes or a history of heart, lung, or renal illness

8. Severe chest pain, wheezing, or shortness of breath Basic 

9. Functions (eating/drinking, sleeping, and self-care) are prioritized.


Hands should be washed with soap and water before eating. Between handwashings, Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be utilized.

Soiled tissues should be discarded. Clean your personal space (desk, phone, remote, keyboard, mouse, bathroom sink, doorknobs, and light switch plates) with antiseptic wipes (Lysol® or Clorox®). Change your pillowcases and bedsheets at least once a week, preferably in hot water.

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