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Common cold — causes, side effects and treatments at

Saturday, February 17, 2018 by

The “most frequently occurring disease in the world,” the common cold is one of the major reasons why people consult healthcare professionals. The symptoms of the common cold (also called acute viral rhinopharyngitis and acute coryza) often include a sore throat and runny nose, and these are often followed by coughing and sneezing.

Recovery from the common cold usually takes at least seven to ten days, and prevention measures include washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick people, and not touching your face with unwashed hands.

Absences from both school and work are often due to the common cold. There are millions of recorded cases of the common cold in the United States yearly. On average, an adult will have two to three colds in a year, but children could have even more.

The common cold is believed to account for about 75 to 100 million physician visits annually, and it has an estimated economic impact of more than $20 billion every year due to cold-related work loss.

Known side effects of the common cold

Common cold symptoms usually start two to three days after an individual is infected, but the incubation period can vary depending on the type of virus that caused the infection. The risk for contagion is greater during the first two to three days when the symptoms start manifesting.

Side effects of the common cold may include:

  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Earache
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sneezing
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Stuffy nose/nasal drainage
  • Watery eyes

Side effects of the common cold in infants and children are similar to those experienced by adults. Initial symptoms of a cold may include a runny nose with clear nasal discharge, which can turn yellowish or greenish. Both infants and children may become fussier and show signs of a loss of appetite.

Risk factors for the common cold include:

  • Age — Infants and young children are more likely to develop the common cold since they haven’t been exposed to and have yet to develop immunity to “many of the implicated viruses.”
  • Seasonal variation — More people develop the common cold during the fall, winter, or during the rainy season (for warmer climates). This could be because most individuals stay indoors during these periods and “are in closer proximity to one another.”
  • Weakened immune system — Someone with a “poorly functioning immune system” is more likely to catch the common cold. Individuals with excessive fatigue or emotional distress can also be more susceptible to developing the common cold.

Body systems harmed by the common cold

Many different viruses such as rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, coronaviruses, and human metapneumoviruses cause colds, but rhinoviruses, which has over a hundred subtypes, are often involved in the common cold.

Complications may prolong a cold and rhinovirus infection often trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma. Others may develop bacterial infections of the middle ear (otitis media) or sinuses. These infections are caused by congestion in the nose, which clogs the normal drainage of these areas. Congestion allows bacteria to thrive in the blocked secretions.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent the common cold

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent the common cold:

  • Chicken soup — A bowl of chicken soup prepared from scratch may help slow the movement of neutrophils in your body. Neutrophils, a common type of white blood cell, helps protect the body from infection. When neutrophils move slowly, they are more concentrated in areas of the body that need the most healing.
  • Echinacea/coneflowers — The herb and root of the echinacea plant are used to treat infections. Echinacea contains an active ingredient called flavonoids, which are chemicals that have many therapeutic effects on the body. Flavonoids can boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Ginger — Ginger tea, which you can make by putting some slices of raw ginger root in boiling water, can help soothe a cough or a sore throat. It can also ease feelings of nausea that usually accompany influenza.
  • Honey — Full of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, some honey with tea and lemon can help ease a sore throat. Honey is also a great cough suppressant. Do take note that children younger than a year old can’t consume honey because it may contain botulinum spores, which their immune system can’t fight off.
  • Probiotics — Called “friendly” bacteria and yeast found in the body, probiotics can also be found in some foods and supplements. They can help keep the gut and immune system healthy, and they can also minimize the risk of an upper respiratory infection. Yogurt is full of these helpful bacteria.
  • Vitamin C — This vitamin offers many health benefits, and sources include lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, leafy greens, and other fruits and vegetables. With enough vitamin C, you can relieve upper respiratory tract infections and other illnesses.

Treatments, management plans for the common cold

Keep in mind that both antibiotics and antiviral medications are ineffective against most of the viruses that cause the common cold. While a cold often lasts from one to 10 days, some symptoms can stay up to three weeks.

While there is no real “cure” for the common cold, the following treatments and management plans can help ease its symptoms:

  • Get plenty of sleep/rest — Sleep or rest as much as possible so your immune system can fight off the virus.
  • Inhale steam — Some people claim that this helps ease the symptoms of nasal congestion.
  • Stay hydrated – Drink lots of fluids when you have a cold. When you’re dehydrated, your symptoms may worsen.

Where to learn more


The symptoms of the common cold often include a sore throat and runny nose, followed by coughing and sneezing.

Side effects of the common cold may also vary depending on the virus that caused the infection and may include body aches, cough, earache, fatigue, and headache.

Both antibiotics and antiviral medication are ineffective against the viruses that cause the common cold. While there is no real “cure” for the common cold, these treatments and management plans can help ease its symptoms: getting plenty of sleep/rest, inhaling steam, and staying hydrated.

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