The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It’s usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold. Sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, followed by coughing and sneezing. Most people recover in about 7-10 days. You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold: wash your hands often, avoid close contact with sick people, and don’t touch your face with unwashed hands.
Although many types of viruses can cause a common cold, rhinoviruses are the most common culprit.
A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes, or nose. The virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes, or talks. It also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, such as utensils, towels, toys, or telephones. If you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after such contact or exposure, you’re likely to catch a cold (www.mayoclinic.org).
Within one to three days of picking up a cold virus, you’ll get symptoms like:
- Runny nose.
- Sore throat.
- Nasal congestion.
- Fever (most common in children) (my.clevelandclinic.org).
There’s no vaccine for the common cold, but you can take commonsense precautions to slow the spread of cold viruses:
- Wash your hands. Clean your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water, and teach your children the importance of hand-washing. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfect your stuff. Clean kitchen and bathroom countertops with disinfectant, especially when someone in your family has a cold. Wash children’s toys periodically.
- Use tissues. Sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away, then wash your hands carefully. Teach children to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow when they don’t have a tissue. That way they cover their mouths without using their hands.
- Don’t share. Don’t share drinking glasses or utensils with other family members. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label the cup or glass with the name of the person with the cold.
- Steer clear of colds. Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold.
- Choose your child care center wisely. Look for a child care setting with good hygiene practices and clear policies about keeping sick children at home.
- Take care of yourself. Eating well, getting exercise and enough sleep, and managing stress might help you keep colds at bay (www.mayoclinic.org).
There’s no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics are of no use against cold viruses and shouldn’t be used unless there’s a bacterial infection. Treatment is directed at relieving signs and symptoms.
Natural and herbal remedies to manage a cold
Stay hydrated: Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated sodas, which can make dehydration worse.
Hyssop: Hyssop leaf has anti-inflammatory properties that are able to reduce pain and discomfort in the respiratory tracts, including soothing sore throats and expelling mucus and phlegm, which is where the underlying infections can thrive (www.journaljpri.com).
Humidifier: A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can add moisture to your home, which might help loosen congestion. Change the water daily, and clean the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions (www.mayoclinic.org).
Marshmallow root: Marshmallow root encourages the natural productions of mucus that maintains, soothes, and moistens mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. It also contains chemicals that might decrease cough and help heal wounds by decreasing inflammation and fighting certain microbes (www.researchgate.net).
“Treatment of the common cold in children and adults.” American family physician 86.2 (2012): 153-159.
“Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis.” The Lancet infectious diseases 7.7 (2007): 473-480.
“Complementary and alternative medicine for prevention and treatment of the common cold.” Canadian Family Physician 57.1 (2011): 31-36.
Note: “Western Pharmaceutical” is defined as a system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Quote from National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov
Holistic Health: is mindfulness of one’s mind, body, emotions, spirit, environment & social group.