What happens during a cold?

While the flu is caused by influenza virus, the common cold is caused by another virus, the rhinovirus.  Symptoms often include feeling bad, headache, stuffy nose, sore throat, itchy eyes, coughing and sometimes a low grade fever.  The rhinovirus is spread in the same way that the flu virus is through the nasal and respiratory secretions.  This means that when an individual coughs into

Woman sneezing into a tissue

Sneezing is one off the symptoms of the common cold

their hands or sneezes on an object the virus can be spread to the next person when it is transmitted to their hands in they touches their nose, mouth or eyes.  Sometimes the virus is spread directly when an individual sneezes in the area of another person’s face.

People become more susceptible to catching a cold, or the virus multiplying at such a rate inside the body that the immune system is not able to contain it before becoming sick, because of several different factors in their life.  The first is an underlying medical condition which adversely affects the immune system, such as diabetes, asthma, HIV or AIDS.  Another factor is rest.  When we do not get enough sleep each night our immune system is depressed, and we are no longer able to fight off the environmental toxins and waste products which cause illness.  Sugar will depress the immune system as can inappropriate nutritional intake.  We truly are what we eat, and when we do not provide our body adequate nutritional factors such as vitamins and minerals, we suffer overall poor health.

The University of Calgary scientist from Canada confirmed in late 2008 that it is the response of our immune system to the rhinovirus that causes the cold symptoms and not the rhinovirus itself.  There are over 100 different types of viruses that can cause the common cold, however, the human right of virus is a major cause.  The research was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and was the first time that scientists comprehensively reviewed the gene changes in the rhinovirus.

And, while the rhinovirus is the major cause of the common cold, it is also an important pathogen in other conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  For instance, researchers have found that children who get recurrent rhinovirus wheezing early in life are 10 times more likely to develop asthma later in life.

Symptoms usually occur within one to three days after catching the Cole or being exposed to the virus.  They often start with a burning feeling in the nose or throat.  Many individuals go on to experience sneezing, runny nose and the feeling of being tired and less specifically on well. It was once believed that dark mucus or yellow mucus meant you had developed a bacterial infection, but researchers today understand that this is not the case.

Some individuals will develop a mild to moderate cough and those who have asthma may find that their control of their disease has suddenly disappeared.  Usually there is no fever, but sometimes individuals can experience a mild, low grade fever of less than 100°F.  After about three days, the worst of the symptoms is usually over.  However, you can continue to experience congestion for over a week.

During the first three days, you have a cold you are contagious to others, so it is best to stay home and rest so that you don’t spread the virus to other people and that you will recover much more quickly.

If you continue to feel bad for over a week to 10 days you should seek the advice of your primary care physician who may do sinus x-rays or a nasal swab to determine if you are suffering from another illness.  Complications can ensue individuals who have a compromised immune system and can include bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis or worsening of their asthma.

Colds is usually seen in young children just before they develop an ear infection because of the drainage of the fluid behind the eardrum and the likelihood that they will develop a bacterial infection.

Preventing a cold is so much easier than suffering through one so avoid second hand smoke, unnecessary antibiotics, drink plenty of water and get enough rest.  Some research has found that bacteria in yogurt has helped in the prevention of colds.  Wash your hands whenever you feel you may have come in contact with the germs and periodically throughout the day.  Keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes and use paper towels to dry your hands during the cold season instead of sharing a cloth towel.

Of course you want to avoid getting the common cold. The best way to prevent this, is using the same principles you would use to prevent the flu.

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