Common cold is a viral infection which affects the upper respiratory system of the human body. Two known viruses which are the cause of common cold are rhino and corona viruses. The symptoms of this disease are cough, sore throat, running nose and fever. It takes 5 to 7 days for a child to be fully cured from this disease. Medicines are generally given for treatment of sore throat and reduction of fever. This is one of the most common disease in humans with every child contracting it about 6 to 8 times in a year and an adult contracting it three four times each year.
Symptoms of common cold in children are cough, sore throat, running nose or nasal congestion, muscle pains and shivering in extreme cases. Some patients also show the symptoms of conjunctivitis, meaning having red eyes. Often feeling of cold is not associated with fever and both symptoms can appear independent of each other.
Infection period: Infection symptoms start to show within 3 to 4 days after the child contracts it from someone and peak within next 2 to 3 days. After this period the infection generally starts to recede. The first indication of getting infected being congestion in the upper respiratory tract and sore throat and sneezing. Loss of appetite is the next follow up symptom. The symptoms are more severe in infants and young children and the problem is generally associated with fever.
One can get contaminated or come in contact with common cold by any of these causes:
- Touching eyes, nose or mouth with contaminated hands.
- Being in a closed room for quite some time where an infected person is also present. The droplets from sneezing or coughing by the infected person spread in the atmosphere affecting the healthy persons. Children being less resistant get caught easily.
- Contracting common cold by exposing the body to cold is not certain. One study suggests that 10% people will contract common cold this way while others suggest the chances are much more.
- Excess of smoking or being exposed to smoke from another person may be a cause of this sickness.
- The risk of contracting cold increases with reduced sleep at night. Less than 7 hours of sleep increases the chances many fold.
- Cold and wet weather can be a cause of increased chances of contracting virus. Low humidity and hot weather results in rapid evaporation and dispersion of droplets containing infection.
Prevention is better than cure. The spread and contracting of virus can be controlled by taking following precautions:
- Washing hands with soap and running water will help clear them of the virus. The hands should be properly washed and dried using a clean towel.
- Alcohol based hand sanitizers are not very helpful especially amongst the children. Common cold is caused by virus so anti bacterial soaps will not help much. Their action is just like ordinary soap.
- Iodine is a reliable material for removing cold virus but cannot be used because of the color stains left by it.
Studies have shown that washing hands quite often reduces the chances of common cold many times. Cleaning contaminated utensils with mixture of alcohol and phenyl also reduces the chance of spreading of virus. Researchers have tried to develop a vaccine against cold virus but have failed as the cold causing virus spreads rapidly.
Though a number of medicines are prescribed by different doctors but none of them have been found to be effective. One can conclude that there is no direct remedy. Treatment is generally for fever, headache and sore throat etc. to reduce the intensity and to enable the child to breathe easily and be comfortable. Antibiotics have no effect on this virus and due to side effects of antibiotics these cause harm instead. The best way is to give the child things which will have soothing effect on the throat. Honey can be given to the child as this will help clear the throat and reduce cough though giving honey to children below one year of age is not recommended.
Cold humidifier may be installed in the room to increase humidity. Saline drops may be put in the nose of the child to clear congestion. Cough drops can also be given to relieve sore throat.
Best will be to wait for the effect of virus to recede using minimum medicines.