The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. That's how a doctor would describe it. You'd describe it by its symptoms: a runny nose, a sore throat, coughing, aches and pains, and an overwhelming desire to stay in bed. Although the following facts about the common cold, courtesy of the American Lung Association, won't help you feel any better, being informed may help you prevent future colds, or at least ease your symptoms.
- Colds are minor (although they seem quite major to the afflicted) infections of the throat or nose caused by different viruses.
- Colds account for more doctor visits than any other ailment.
- Most colds occur between September and May.
- The average adult will suffer two to four colds per year.
- The average child contracts six to eight colds per year.
- Colds are spread through the transfer of fluid droplets that contain the cold virus.
- Colds are highly contagious.
- Colds last for about a week in healthy adults. The elderly, young children and those in poor health may suffer longer.
There is no cure for the common cold. There are remedies, however, that may lessen the severity of symptoms.
- Various remedies that relieve symptoms can be found at a pharmacy. Be sure to read labels carefully.
- Cough drops or cough syrup provides temporary relief.
- Antibiotics don't work on colds.
- Echinacea, eucalyptus, garlic, honey, lemon, menthol, zinc and vitamin C have received a lot of publicity as cold remedies. Although these claims have not been substantiated, some cold sufferers swear by them.
- If you have a cold, you should drink plenty of fluids – about eight glasses of water and/or juice a day are recommended. Don't drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol.
- Don't smoke. This is sound advice whether you have a cold or not.
The old adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is especially true when there's no cure. These suggestions can help prevent colds.
- Avoid contact with those who have a cold, especially during the first few days of contracting the virus.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after contact with anyone who has a cold, or after touching anything a person with a cold has touched.
- Keep fingers away from your nose and eyes.
- If you have a cold, cover your mouth when you cough, and cough into your elbow to keep your hands clean.
- Use a humidifier to keep sinuses from drying.