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Symptoms of Common Cold, Causes and Treatment Options

Jul 4, 2008
A cold is a contagious viral disease which infects the soft lining (mucous membrane) of the nose. There are more than 100 different viruses which can result in a cold. The characteristic symptom is a runny nose.

Common Colds are most prevalent among children, and seem to be related to youngsters relative lack of resistance to infection and to contacts with other children in day-care centers and schools. Children have about six to ten colds a year. 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, individuals older than 60 have fewer than one cold a year.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a cold include sneezing, sniffing, running/blocked nose (often these occur simultaneously, or one in each nostril), scratchy, sore, or phlegmy throat, coughing, headache, and a general feeling of unwellness; they last between 3 to 10 days, with residual coughing lasting up to 3 weeks. It is the most common of all diseases, infecting subjects at an average of slightly over one infection per year with greater than 3 infections per year not uncommon in some populations. Children and their caretakers are at a higher risk, probably due to the high population density of schools and the fact that transmission to family members or caretakers is highly efficient.

Causes

The common cold is caused by numerous viruses (mainly rhinoviruses, coronaviruses and also certain echoviruses and coxsackieviruses) infecting the upper respiratory system. Several hundred cold causing viruses have been described, and a virus can mutate to survive, ensuring that any cure is still a long way off if not impossible. These are transmitted from person to person by droplets resulting from coughs or sneezes. The droplets are either inhaled directly, or, more commonly, transmitted from hand to hand via handshakes or objects such as door knobs, and then introduced to the nasal passages when the hand touches the nose, mouth or eyes.

Treatment

Common cold treatment options include bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking cold medications. No common cold treatment will actually shorten or prevent colds, but treatments can provide relief from cold symptoms. Check with your doctor before giving medications to children as a common cold treatment; some medications, like aspirin, have been linked to the development of more serious conditions.
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