The Common Cold
What is it?
The common cold is an upper respiratory infection caused by any one of over 300 viruses.
How do you catch it?
Cold viruses enter the body through contact with fluid from the eyes, nose or throat of an infected person. Confinement in a small space with many people promotes cold transmission.
What are the symptoms?
- Generally feeling "blah" or weak
- Runny or stuffy nose or sneezing
- Head congestion
- Cough (may linger 1-2 weeks after first symptoms appear)
What can you do?
Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Colds must run their course; there is nothing you can do to stop them. You can, however, take measures to feel better:
- REST to relieve weakness and muscular aches. Avoid becoming fatigued and take 1-2 days off from classes/work if needed.
- DRINK FLUIDS to keep secretions thin and fevers down. Aim for 8-10 glasses per day. If you do not feel like eating, emphasize high-calorie drinks (i.e. soda or juice).
- DON'T SMOKE it irritates the mucus lining of the nose and throat and can worsen symptoms.
- INCREASE HUMIDITY to reduce nasal stuffiness. If you do not have a humidifier or vaporizer, try sitting in a steamy bathroom with a hot running shower for 15 minutes.
- PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE to prevent spreading your cold. Cover your nose and throat when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands and dispose of used tissues. Avoid sharing towels, drinks and eating utensils.
- MEDICATIONS can be helpful in relieving discomfort of cold symptoms. The following is a brief description of some of the non-prescription cold medications available:
- Aspirin (10 grains) or acetaminophen (650 mg) every 4-6 hours reduces muscular aches, headaches and fevers.
- Decongestants (oral) relieve stuffiness by promoting nasal drainage. Nasal spraysprovide fast relief from stuffiness but should be used no more than 4 days to avoid the "rebound effect" of increased congestion.
- Cough syrups can be used to relieve cough discomfort. Expectorants help you loosen and cough up secretions (water is also an excellent expectorant). Suppressants help quell coughing but should be reserved for dry, hacking coughs which prevent sleep.Remember: coughing is a normal, protective reflex, which should not be suppressed if it effectively brings up secretions.
- Cough drops provide moisture and ease coughing. Many contain suppressants (checklabels).
- Throat lozenges provide temporary relief from sore throats. Look for ingredients thatcontain phenol or end in "caine".
- NOTE: At present, there is no conclusive evidence that large doses of vitamin C can prevent or cure the common cold.
Consult health care personnel:
- if secretions turn yellow.
- if fever is above 101 degrees F (38.3 degrees C) for more than three days.
- if general symptoms last longer than 1-2 weeks or worsen.
- anytime you are unsure of what to do.