Common Cold: Everything You Need to Know!
The common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat that causes similar symptoms in almost everyone who gets it. It’s so common that most adults will catch it once or twice a year, and children will get it even more frequently than that. Milder symptoms may appear as something else, like allergies or hay fever, which is why many people don’t recognize their first case of the common cold.
The virus that causes the common cold lives in the mucus in our noses and throats all year long. But it usually can’t go anywhere else in our bodies. These viruses are called “cold viruses” because they thrive best in cool temperatures, like those found in our noses and throats. When we get sick from the common cold, it’s usually because one of these little beasties found its way into some moist part of our respiratory tract and started reproducing there instead…
What are the Symptoms of a Common Cold?
The most common symptoms of a cold are a runny nose, congestion, coughing, a sore throat, and a general feeling of malaise. There are a few other symptoms that are more specific to the common cold, like a hoarse voice, sneezing, a scratchy throat (“postnasal drip“), and headaches.
The common cold is not just one thing. There are hundreds of different cold viruses, and each one causes a unique set of symptoms. The usual cold symptoms are caused by the rhinovirus, which is actually the most common cold virus.
How do You Know If You Have a Cold or the Flu?
The flu is caused by a completely different virus than the common cold. The symptoms of a cold and the flu are very similar, but there are a few things you can check to see if you have a cold or the flu. First, check how long it took for your symptoms to appear. If you’ve had a runny nose and a sore throat for more than a couple of days, you’re probably dealing with the common cold.
If you’ve had the same symptoms but they came on much more suddenly, you might have the flu instead. Second, check your risk of exposure. If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has the flu, you might be getting it too. Third, check your symptoms again. The flu tends to cause more coughing and muscle aches than a cold.
You Can’t Really Prevent the Common Cold
The best you can do is to avoid people who have the flu. The flu virus is airborne, so you can catch it from people whether or not they are showing symptoms. You can’t catch a cold from someone who has the flu, though—it’s a different virus. There are a few ways to reduce your risk of getting a cold, but all of them are pretty unhelpful.
You can avoid touching your nose, avoid touching other people, or avoid touching objects that others have touched. And there’s a common myth that you can reduce flu risk by drinking lots of water. None of these things really help very much, though.
You Shouldn’t Use Over-the-Counter Cold Medications
These medications, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, are usually harmless, but they won’t help with your cold. They’re targeted at flu symptoms and generally won’t help your stuffy nose and sore throat. There are also a few antiviral drugs that can help people who have the flu, but these drugs are not useful against the common cold.
You Shouldn’t Take Vitamin C to Treat Your Cold
There’s no solid evidence that vitamin C can help fight off the common cold. Some studies show that it may shorten the duration of your cold by a few hours, but other studies show that it has no effect. Some people claim that vitamin C can help reduce the severity of cold symptoms, but studies don’t show much evidence of this. It may be helpful for the flu, though.
Breathing exercises help with chronic cough and sore throat from a cold
Breathing exercises can help you expel mucus from your lungs. If you’re coughing up lots of mucus because of your cold, you could try these exercises to help release some of it. You can also try drinking hot water with lemon, which is good for easing sore throats.
Lemon is antimicrobial, so it can help kill some of the bacteria that are making your throat sore and stuffy. Lemon water can also help you get more hydrated, which can be good for any kind of common cold symptom.
Vitamin C May Help Shorten the Duration of Your Cold
This doesn’t apply to people who already have their colds—only people who get colds in the future. There’s some evidence that getting a vitamin C deficiency during childhood can actually make you more likely to get a cold as an adult, and getting plenty of vitamin C in adulthood can reduce your risk of getting a cold. There’s not enough evidence to say that taking vitamin C to treat your cold is a good idea. It might help, or it might be a waste of money.
Zinc may help reduce your symptoms, but it hasn’t been proven effective yet.
Zinc is an antiviral, so taking it while you’re sick could shorten the duration of your cold. There is not enough evidence to say that it will definitely shorten the duration of your cold, though. There are a lot of zinc supplements out there, but not all of them will help you get over your cold faster. You can tell if a zinc supplement is good for treating your cold by checking the label for these words: “elemental zinc” or “zinc mononitrate.”
Conclusion: Common Cold Treatment
The best way to deal with a cold is to let it run its course. There are a few things you can do to make yourself feel better while you wait, though. You can drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated, try breathing exercises if you’re coughing up lots of mucus, and try to reduce stress to help your body heal. And of course, you can take advantage of this opportunity to get some extra rest and relaxation. After all, you’re not getting any younger!