Winter is coming…and we along with House Stark need to be watchful for the many, many diseases that the cold season brings along with it. Although most of them are temporary and disappear within a couple of weeks to a month, ailments of the cold season may have a lasting and devastating effect on our health. Ranging from common cold to respiratory ailments and even heart attack (yes, you read it right), the cold months bring their fair share of woes. Let us discuss some of them, beginning with:
Did you know that the common cold is the most frequently occurring viral infection in the world? The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection which is spread by virus-infected airborne droplets or by direct contact with infected discharges. A scratchy throat, a runny nose and nonstop sneezing, and there, you have a common cold. Some of us are more susceptible to the common cold while others have a stronger immune system and do not get infected by the common cold as easily. Although there are more than 200 types of viruses that can cause the common cold, the most common one is the rhinovirus, which is believed to cause at least 50% of common cold instances. Rhinovirus multiplies best at temperatures found in the nose. Some of the other viruses which cause the common cold are respiratory syncytial virus, coronavirus, influenza and parainfluenza. And since there are more than 200 types of viruses causing the common cold, it is impossible for the human body to build up resistance to all of them; hence, the common cold is truly ‘common’, and keeps returning stubbornly every season.
The common cold virus may be transmitted to you from another individual infected by the common cold. This happens when you have a direct physical contact with someone infected by the common cold or by even touching the same surface as them (doorknobs, keyboards, utensils) and then touching your mouth or nose. Another way to catch it the common cold is through infected droplets released in the air when a person infected by the common cold sneezes or coughs. Then, the common cold begins when the virus latches itself to your throat or nose lining. The body then sends out its soldiers – white blood cells – to fight this foreign invader. Generally, the initial attack can fail and the body sends reinforcements; you have inflammation of the nose and throat, and make plenty of mucus. When so much energy is spent on fighting the cold virus, you naturally start feeling tired and miserable.
A misconception that needs to be broken is that getting wet or even chilly does not result in you getting sick and catching the common cold. However, there are certain things that make you vulnerable to getting a common cold, an example being that if you are very exhausted, under emotional distress or have allergies with throat and nose symptoms.
When cold strikes, you may have the following symptoms:
More severe symptoms, such as muscle aches or high fever may be a sign that you have the flu, not a common cold.
At the start of the common cold condition, you may have a runny nose with clear discharge from the nose that later might change color to yellowish or greenish discharge. However, this is not an indication of a bacterial infection. Children and infants become usually fussier and have decreased appetite when infected with the common cold virus.
Children have a higher rate of catching the common cold flu and may have about 5 to 7 cases of common cold per year. The reason for this is that they spend a lot of time at public places like schools and daycare centers (not to mention malls and movie halls with parents and elders), where they are exposed to other infected children throughout the day. Also, kids are not as careful about frequent hand washing or sneezing into the crook of their arm when sneezing, and to top it all their hands are everywhere all the time. Plus, their immune systems are not as developed as adults to fight all the 200+ strains of the (common) cold virus.
The common cold can be caused by as many as 200+ strains of the cold virus, with the rhinovirus (the leader of the pack) being responsible for around 50% of the colds. Other viruses that cause cold are:
When your body’s immune system is beaten, infection (common cold) occurs; this is quite understandable since the body does not have an immune system strong enough to fight 200+ types of the cold virus. The first step body does to fight the virus is it produces abundant mucus in the nose and throat by the mucus glands. The function of this mucus is to trap anything inhaled (such as dust), viruses and bacteria. Mucus is a slippery fluid that the membranes of the mouth, nose, throat and vagina produce. When the virus penetrates the mucus, it enters a cell, takes control over the cell and uses the cell’s mechanisms to multiply and manufacture more viruses, and then these new viruses start attacking the surrounding cells.
Stage 1 – Onset. This is the beginning of the infection, after approximately 1 to 3 days since you came into contact with a cold virus. Your body is starting to show mild symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, mild fatigue and a sore throat.
Stage 2 – Progression. The common cold is begins to make itself ‘comfortable at home’, and so is the congestion and cough. Chicken soup, honey, honey, cough drops, soft tissues and lip balms suddenly become your new best friends. Zinc balances a healthy immune system, so zinc-rich foods like eggs, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains help you get better faster.
Stage 3 – Peak. You are feeling beat and the (common) cold is in full swing at this point. Low-grade fever and body aches are normal; however, increase your liquid intake with water, broth and juices to stay hydrated. For congestion and sinus pressure, use humidifiers and hot, steamy showers and give a thought to an over-the-counter nasal decongestant.
Stage 4 – Remission. You have started your journey to your healthy self when your (common cold) fever breaks and your aches start to diminish. As you keep gaining your strength back, to avoid a repetition, ban determined common cold germs by disinfecting the surfaces in your home, car and office. Sterilize your personal items like cells phones and toothbrushes as they spread common cold germs too. Wash your bedding and clothes to stop getting re-infected.
Stage 5 – recovery. Hurray! You are back to your healthy (pre common cold) self again! Treat any little, persistent symptoms like a runny nose or cough with the suitable over-the-counter medicine and stick to an especially healthy, balanced diet as your body restarts.
Remember, we can have a common cold infection even in the summer as cold weather is not the source of a common cold; viruses are responsible which are transmitted through minuscule droplets. Hence, disinfecting the spaces around us regularly and washing our hands for 20 seconds or more at least 5 times a day is the best prevention method we have against an attack of the common cold.
As the strength of the immune system varies from person to person, some are more vulnerable to the common cold, like:
Children Under 6. Young children and infants are more apt to getting infected by the common cold as their immune system has not developed enough to fight all the 200+ viruses.
Older Adults. Weakened immune system because of wear and tear due to age means susceptibility to catching the common cold virus is increased.
Individuals With Weak Immune Systems. Frail immune systems fail to fight against virus effectively. Fatigue or emotional distress also makes a person more vulnerable to catching the common cold.
Smokers. If you are exposed to cigarette smoke, your chances of catching a common cold and having severe colds increase exponentially.
Seasonal. Generally, individuals get the common cold during the winter, fall or during the rainy season (in warmer climates). This is thought to be as a result of staying indoors and being in closer vicinity to one another.
Crowded Places. If you are at a public place, such as schools or airports or any other gathering, your chances of being exposed to the common cold virus is high.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This includes both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The common cold can worsen chronic bronchitis or emphysema symptoms, resulting in increased shortness of breath and coughing. Occasionally, a bacterial infection can occur leading to fever, and antibiotics may be prescribed.
Diagnostic and Pathology Tests Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).
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