The Common Cold
The common cold is a viral infection of your upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). While it is harmless in the sense that typically no serious complications arise from the cold virus, it certainly doesn’t feel that way when you’re experiencing it.
The average length of a cold is 7-10 days. While most adults will experience around 2 – 3 colds per year, children often have upwards of 6 – 10 per year. School-aged children and babies and toddlers in daycare tend to get them most often.
As I mentioned, there are nearly 250 different viruses that cause the common cold. However, the most common culprit (almost ½ of cold cases) are caused by the rhinovirus.
“Cold viruses can only multiply when they are inside of living cells. When on an environmental surface, cold viruses can not multiply. However, they are still infectious if they are transported from an environmental site into the nose.” -Quoted from www.commoncold.org
If you’d like to learn the process of infection for the common cold and other interesting facts check out their article here http:www.commoncold.org/understand.htm
The “Myth” Is TRUE!
We’ve all heard it and probably chopped it up to an old wives tale. “You’ll get sick if you go outside in the cold”. Well, guess what Parents, it’s been scientifically proven!
It makes perfect sense, in my post on Fevers (link at bottom of this post) I go into detail about the process of Fevers and why our body temperature rises. Well, turns out when your body is at lower temperatures your immune system is weakened, in turn, making it much easier for the cold virus to take root. Check out the article for yourself here.
Symptoms of the common cold typically appear within one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Though symptoms can vary from person to person they usually include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose (congestion)
- Low-Grade Fever
- Slight body aches
- Headache from sinus pressure
- Malaise (generally feeling unwell)
Interesting Fact: Answering, Is there a vaccine for the common cold?
Doesn’t that name just irk you in itself? The Common Cold. If it’s so common why have we not yet found a way to vaccinate for it?! The cold hard truth is, the cold virus can actually be caused by nearly 250 different viruses. So not only is it too difficult for scientists to create a vaccine to protect you against all of them but since the cold virus isn’t life threatening the general medical viewpoint favors keeping the focus on illnesses that are.
As we discussed with fevers, treating symptoms are not always best. Believe me; I know how difficult it is to see your child suffer from symptoms you know they make OTC relievers for and not gun it to the medicine cabinet or pharmacy to get them. Your body has a whole line of defenses on its own, and part of that is coughing and sneezing.
Ever wonder why right before you get sick you sneeze like crazy? Your body has noticed that a potentially harmful “germ” has entered your body and is attempting to expel it.
In the same respect, a cough is the attempt to expel and clear out the infected mucus building up during a cold.
If we simply suppress a cough, we are in turn promising that cold will stick around longer. Unless the symptoms are that unbearable, save the cold medicine for bedtime to ensure they get adequate rest.
The best Cold treatments are not actually medicine.
Increase fluids, especially water. Not only will this keep them hydrated, but it also helps loosen the mucus in their chest and nasal passages.
Congestion, Cough, Sore Throats, and Runny Noses:
Cool Mist Humidifier: This helps ease symptoms by adding moisture to the air. Take care to keep the humidifier clean, after each use it should be cleaned thoroughly to prevent growth and buildup. Also, follow the instructions carefully as to placement and settings to prevent mold and mildew.
Shower: Sitting in a bathroom with a hot steamy shower going can give you the same relief as a humidifier, bonus relief if you place a vapor tablet in the shower.
Warm compress (or washcloth): applied to sinus area can ease the pressure in the same fashion Ibuprofen would.
Saline Spray: This very safe solution sprayed in each nostril will loosen and clear the mucus.
Bulb Syringe: Especially helpful after the use of the saline spray. These suck everything right out.
Vapor Rub or Vapor Wall Plugins: These will instantly clear the nasal passage. They also make non-menthol types for babies if the menthol is too harsh for their little noses. (can cause an irritating burning type sensation)
Percussion: For a stubborn non-productive cough, you can sit your child up right, make fists and gently but firmly “drum” on their backs starting at the lower end and moving your way up. This will help break up the congested mucus, so it is more easily expelled via coughing. (Please ask your physician before carrying out this method).
Cough Drops, Throat Lozenges, and throat sprays: These will help soothe irritated and sore throats. There are also lollipop versions of these for babies and younger children.
Runny Nose Relief: Apply lip balm to their upper lip under their noses to prevent irritation. Use tissues with lotion infused and dab rather than wipe.
TLC: Don’t underestimate the power of some good tender, love, and care!
Zinc + Vitamin C: These are available in vitamin and cold isles at any pharmacy, though it is more powerful if it comes naturally in the foods you feed them. (if they will eat).
When to call the doctor
Generally, your child will not require a doctor visit for the common cold. Though, you should seek medical attention if your child has any of the following:
- Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in a newborn up to 12 weeks.
- Rising fever or fever lasting more than two days
- Bark like cough
- Ear pain
- Signs of dehydration
- Unusual drowsiness
- Acute Ear Infection (Otitis Media): This occurs when bacteria or viruses enter the space between the eardrum. Following heavy congestion, the drainage will sometimes make its way into the ear causing an ear infection.
- Tip: Warm air, especially artificial such as in home heating can facilitate this process. Cool mist humidifiers help with this. Always call your child’s pediatrician when they complain of ear pain.
- Sinus Infection (Acute Sinusitis): Inflammation and infection of the sinuses. A condition that occurs when the common cold does not resolve and causes the cavities around the nasal passages to become inflamed.
- Secondary Infections: These may include
- Strep throat (streptococcal pharyngitis): A bacterial infection that may cause a sore, scratchy throat. –usually has a very distinct odor, almost sickly sweet–
- Croup: An upper airway infection that blocks breathing. A significant indicator is a barking (seal like) cough.
- Bronchiolitis: Inflammation of the bronchioles. An inflammatory bronchial reaction in young children and infants.
Also, it is important to note that the common cold can trigger an Asthma attack in Asthma sufferers.
Remember, the best treatment for a cold is TLC and plenty of fluids. Steer clear of sugary snacks and beverages and anything caffeinated as these rob your body of fluids. This can make dehydration more likely as well as making it more difficult to clear the infection.
Interesting Fact: It is believed that sugar intake hinders your bodies ability to make Vitamin C which in turn weakens your immune system.
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