Overview of Common Cold

Sneezing, scratchy throat, runny nose—everyone knows the first signs of a cold, probably the most common illness known. Although the common cold is usually mild, with symptoms lasting 1 to 2 weeks, it is a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work. People in the United States suffer 1 billion colds each year, according to some estimates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million school days are lost annually in the United States due to the common cold.

Children have about 6 to 10 colds a year. One important reason why colds are so common in children is because they are often in close contact with each other in daycare centers and schools. In families with children in school, the number of colds per child can be as high as 12 a year. Adults average about two to four colds a year, although the range varies widely. Women, especially those aged 20 to 30 years, have more colds than men, possibly because of their closer contact with children. On average, people older than 60 have fewer than one cold a year.

Common Cold

The cold season

In the United States, most colds occur during the fall and winter. Beginning in late August or early September, the rate of colds increases slowly for a few weeks and remains high until March or April, when it declines. The seasonal variation may relate to the opening of schools and to cold weather, which prompt people to spend more time indoors and increase the chances that viruses will spread to you from someone else.

Seasonal changes in relative humidity also may affect the prevalence of colds. The most common cold-causing viruses survive better when humidity is low—the colder months of the year. Cold weather also may make the inside lining of your nose drier and more vulnerable to viral infection.

Symptoms

Symptoms of the common cold usually begin 2 to 3 days after infection and often include

  • Mucus buildup in your nose
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Swelling of your sinuses
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache

Fever is usually slight but can climb to 102 degrees Fahrenheit in infants and young children. Cold symptoms can last from 2 to 14 days, but like most people, you’ll probably recover in a week. If symptoms recur often or last much longer than 2 weeks, you might have an allergy rather than a cold.

Colds occasionally can lead to bacterial infections of your middle ear or sinuses, requiring treatment with antibiotics. High fever, significantly swollen glands, severe sinus pain, and a cough that produces mucus may indicate a complication or more serious illness requiring a visit to your healthcare provider.

Treatment

There is no cure for the common cold, but you can get relief from your cold symptoms by

  • Resting in bed
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Gargling with warm salt water or using throat sprays or lozenges for a scratchy or sore throat
  • Using petroleum jelly for a raw nose
  • Taking aspirin or acetaminophen—Tylenol, for example—for headache or fever

A word of caution: Several studies have linked aspirin use to the development of Reye’s syndrome in children recovering from flu or chickenpox. Reye’s syndrome is a rare but serious illness that usually occurs in children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. It can affect all organs of the body but most often the brain and liver. While most children who survive an episode of Reye’s syndrome do not suffer any lasting consequences, the illness can lead to permanent brain damage or death. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children and teenagers not be given aspirin or medicine containing aspirin when they have any viral illness such as the common cold.

Over-the-counter cold medicines

Nonprescription cold remedies, including decongestants and cough suppressants, may relieve some of your cold symptoms but will not prevent or even shorten the length of your cold. Moreover, because most of these medicines have some side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, insomnia, or upset stomach, you should take them with care.

Questions have been raised about the safety of nonprescription cold medicines in children and whether the benefits justify any potential risks from the use of these products in children, especially in those under 2 years of age. Recently, a Food and Drug Administration panel recommended that nonprescription cold medicines not be given to children under the age of 6, because cold medicines do not appear to be effective for these children and may not be safe.

Source : http://fda.com/fdamd/cold.htm

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