The common cold is actually a virus-infected disease that affects your nose and throat, but it’s harmless. People usually experience symptoms that include coughing, sneezing, nose running, and headaches. The worst days of the common cold are the early three days; after that, this disease decreases its effect. It’s also known as cold, and the word common indicates that it’s widespread throughout the world. A report suggests that in the United States, adults are infected with this infectious disease two to four times per year, whereas young children are infected six to eight times per year. 

Are you experiencing a viral infection in your nose and throat? But searching to find out whether it’s a common cold or not! Don’t worry! In this article, we will explore details on its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and even treatment.

The Common Cold 

The common cold is a contagious viral infection that usually affects the upper respiratory tract of humans, such as the nose, throat, sinuses, and trachea. An upper respiratory tract infection means the germs, which are actually viruses, are affecting the nose and throat. The Rhinovirus is the most prevalent of the nearly 200 viruses that cause this infectious disease. This infection lasts for about a week or two and then goes away by itself.  

Figure 1: Common cold infection

Any virus that goes through the nose and causes inflammation in the membrane of the nose or throat then results in a common cold. It’s 50% due to rhinoviruses, which have almost 100 types. Let’s take a look at this virus mechanism. We will be able to learn that Rhinovirus actually has receptor cells that cross the plasma membrane of the upper respiratory tract through a process known as endocytosis. This virus then releases its genome, replicates itself in the cytoplasm, and ultimately causes infection, which leads to the viral infectious disease “common cold.”

Some other viruses are also responsible for this infectious disease, including coronaviruses, adenoviruses, and enteroviruses.

Risk factors for the Common cold

Besides all the viruses mentioned above, which cause colds, many other factors are also responsible for this disease. If a person has these factors, his chances of getting a cold increase. It includes:

  • Age: Newborn babies and young children are more likely to be affected by this disease than others.
  • Weather: This viral infection can affect people in any weather, but people have more chances to get cold during the winter and fall seasons. 
  • Immune system: A person with a weakened immune system is more likely to be infected with a virus. 
  • Smoking: direct smoking or even passive smoking increases the risk of catching a cold.
  • Contact: If you are exposed outside in a crowded place like a market or school and you experience contact with a cold person, you are more likely to be affected by this disease. 

Transmission of the Common Cold

The transmission of this disease occurs very fast. Here, we will elaborate on two methods of transmission from one person to another. 

  • Direct transmission of the common cold

In this type of transmission, a patient catches the virus directly from the environment. For example, a person in your school or the market has this contagious disease. He releases fluid droplets or nasal secretions contaminated with viruses into the air when he coughs or sneezes. This virus remains active in the environment for minutes or even hours. A second person will contract the virus through his nostrils and become contagious when he breathes in the same environment that contains the virus. 

  • Indirect transmission of the common cold

This transmission is also known as the person-to-person spread of a cold. In this case, a person can catch the virus from an infectious person. 

If a person touches the cloth or surface that has contaminated droplets of virus due to an infectious person sneezing or coughing, then that person touches the same hand to the mouth or nostrils. These germs, hence, go directly from the hands to the nose, where they easily cause a cold. 

In the second scenario, an individual will contract a common cold if they come into contact with the mouth of an infected person and then touch their mouth or nose with the same hand.

Hence, as we have crafted the information about the spreading or transmission of that disease, we are able to conclude that animals do not transmit the common cold to humans, and it’s also not caused by commercial aircraft or pollution. A virus directly or indirectly causes it. 

Some people typically exhibit no symptoms of the common cold. Others may get worse symptoms that last for about 1 to 2 weeks. These ten days of symptoms of this disease occur within three stages: the early stage, the active stage, and the late stage.

Early Stage

This stage lasts for the first three days. These days, an infected person feels tickling in the throat and has some other symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, stuffy nose secretions, and hoarseness.

Active Stage

This stage is from day 4 to day 7. In these days, the symptoms of this contagious disease reach their peak. Here, a patient feels body pain, headache, fatigue, and runny eyes in some people, among others. Fever happens in children.

Late Stage

From day 8 to 10, it’s called the late stage of the cold. During these days, the cold usually slows down automatically. However, in some patients, it persists, and their cough lasts up to 2 months. In some patients, this disease becomes worse, and infection leads to other respiratory infections or complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and others.

Babies and infants exhibit the following symptoms: sneezing, coughing, runny nose, loss of appetite, and high fever. If a child is experiencing the following symptoms, such as wheezing, fast breath, blue lips, dehydration, ear pain, and coughing for more than three weeks, it means he has some other issue, not a cold. 

Figure 2: symptoms of the common cold

Complications of the Common Cold

If a patient exhibits a common cold that lasts more than ten days, he has a higher chance of other respiratory infections, such as:

The worst stage of the common cold can cause wheezing in patients, and we know this wheezing could lead to asthma, which is an inner respiratory tract disease.

Sinuses are the air-filled spaces on the upper part of the eyes in the skull and around the nose. The worst stage of the cold virus can cause swelling, which is known as sinusitis.

Middle ear infection

If a cold lasts for days or months, it can cause swelling and fill the spaces with fluid behind the eardrum.

Diagnosis of the Common Cold

Usually, at first, there is no need to see a doctor for a common cold disease until its symptoms worsen. Your doctor will examine it through some physical symptoms, such as swelling in your nostrils, throat redness, stuffy nose, and others. 

Your doctor may recommend some tests, such as COVID-19 or nasal swab tests, to detect the presence of the virus. 

Treatment of the Common Cold

In most cases, common colds cure themselves automatically after 7 to 10 days. Sometimes, the cough lasts for more days. Some care tips include:

Rest, drink plenty of water, and use saline nasal rinses. 

Common cold medication does not include antibiotics, but some pain relievers could be prescribed by your doctor, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen for adults. Be careful; don’t give the same medication. 

Precautions of the Common Cold

There are several precautions that you can adopt to avoid the common cold contagious disease, which may include:

  • Proper hand washing
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands, especially in crowded places.
  • Clean your house regularly to avoid germs
  • To boost your immunity, follow a healthy diet plan 

Final Thoughts

The common cold is a highly prevalent disease throughout the world, which affects millions of people every year. Cough, sneezing, and congestion are the main symptoms of this disease. It is caused by a variety of 200 viruses, which is why the common cold is called a contagious disease. Edward Jenner first discovered the common cold in the late 18th century.

Is the Common cold prevented or not?

Yes, the common cold can be prevented by adopting some preventive measures such as washing your hands with sanitizers, avoid to sit close to a cold person, avoid to touch hands to face when the common cold person is sitting near you, and cleaning the house with disinfectants.

What are the four stages of the common cold?

The four stages of a common cold include the incubation period, appearance of symptoms, remission, and recovery.

What is the scientific name of the common cold?

Upper respiratory tract infection is an acute viral disease. It affects the nasal cavity, throat, sinuses, and trachea, which is why it is known as upper respiratory tract illness.

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